The Golden State Warriors are playing dominant, near perfect basketball right now. They just had a 10-game winning streak and went 6-1 on their significant seven-game Eastern road trip. The Warriors are close to unstoppable right now and they continue to move up in the Western Conference standings.
This past Friday, the Warriors were presented with an opportunity to gain a commanding lead in the Pacific Division. On Friday, Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers suffered a separated right shoulder after being fouled by Monta Ellis in a game against the Dallas Mavericks.
Paul will not need surgery and is expected to miss up to six weeks. Paul is so much more to the Clippers than just their point guard. He’s a superstar in the NBA, he’s the vocal leader on and off the court and he’s their floor general.
Darren Collison, the backup point guard for the Clippers, will have to pick up some of the slack in Paul’s absence. Paul thinks the Clippers will be fine without him, but it’s doubtful that the Clippers will be able to fully make up for the impact that Paul has on the team on a daily basis.
Obviously, Paul’s injury doesn’t directly impact the Warriors at all, but how can the Warriors take advantage of Paul’s absence? The Warriors can’t control how the Clippers respond to Paul’s injury, but the Warriors can control what they do with this kind of opportunity.
The Warriors can start to secure a lead in the Pacific Division. Paul is expected to return before the NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans on February 16th, so, until then, the Warriors need to, proverbially, keep their feet on the gas pedal. They need to continue to play as dominantly as they are now, and most importantly, they need to continue to play stellar defense.
In addition, they need to ignore what the Clippers are doing. They need to focus on their own schedule and not worry about how the Clippers are playing.
The Warriors will only face the Clippers once during Paul’s absence. They face off at Oracle Arena on Jan. 30 and this will surely be an entertaining matchup that the Warriors should be able to win.
With Paul out of that game, Stephen Curry should be able to dominate. Usually in Warriors-Clippers games, Paul and Curry go head-to-head in a feisty, competitive battle all game long.
Paul knows how to disrupt Curry’s shooting. Paul is quick so he can keep up with Curry and stay close to him, and he forces him into taking tough shots. With Paul out, Curry will be able to score more freely and also not have to worry about guarding Paul at times.
In addition to Curry potentially dominating in the Warriors’ next game against the Clippers, Curry will also be able to gain some ground in the NBA All-Star voting. In the second returns of NBA All-Star balloting for 2014, Curry received the third most votes out of all Western Conference guards, behind just Paul and Kobe Bryant.
Paul and Bryant will both miss a significant amount of time before the All-Star Game this year, so this is an incredible opportunity for Curry to not just make the All-Star team but to also potentially start the All-Star Game. Curry was snubbed from last year’s All-Star Game, so all Warriors fans would love to see him start for the Western Conference this year.
Russell Westbrook is also expected to be out until after the All-Star break after having his third knee surgery since April on Dec. 27. Because of the competitive nature of the Western Conference, it’s always difficult for guards to make the All-Star team, especially for the first time. However, with Paul, Bryant and Westbrook all out, it seems as if this will finally be the year that Curry will make the All-Star team and possibly start.
Paul’s injury doesn’t directly impact the Warriors, and his absence should not affect the Warriors’ play at all. His injury only affects the Warriors in the sense that they now have an opportunity to build a bigger lead in the Pacific Division.
With Paul’s injury, Curry also has an opportunity to finally go to and potentially start for the Western Conference in the 2014 All-Star Game. Both Curry and the Warriors need to take advantage of these opportunities.