Golden State on the Brink Against the Lakers
“It feels like what it is: three to one,” Coach Steve Kerr told reporters after Game 4. “You go home and you take care of business and you get a win and the momentum is right back in your favor. So that’s all it is. Somebody has to win four times, and that’s why you play it out.”
It hasn’t helped that Golden State’s younger players have not been able to fill the void left by an off night by Curry. For the Lakers, Lonnie Walker IV, 24, a guard in his fifth year, scored 15 points, including crucial baskets in the fourth, to keep Golden State at bay. The second-year guard Austin Reaves, also 24, chipped in 21 points.
Those kinds of contributions have eluded Golden State this postseason. Instead, Golden State has had to rely as much on Curry at age 35 as it did when he was 25, a recipe for trouble this late in the season.
For years, the Golden State front office has been selling a two-timeline plan of development. It would try to chase championships in the present on the backs of Curry, Thompson and Green, while also developing young talent like Jonathan Kuminga, 20 (drafted seventh in 2021); Moses Moody, 20 (14th pick in that same draft); James Wiseman, 22 (second pick in 2020); and Jordan Poole, 23 (28th pick in 2019).
It was a risky maneuver with mixed results. It has meant not trading young, developing talent for veterans who could help the team now, and placing more of the load on Curry in the back half of his career. Golden State traded Wiseman this season as injuries and inconsistency left him without a firm role in the rotation. Moody and Kuminga, each in his second year, have been yanked in and out of the lineup this season, though Moody has had playing time in this series. He scored 7 points in 19 minutes Monday night.
That’s not abnormal for players barely out of their teenage years. But Golden State has one of the best players in the history of the N.B.A. playing at a high level right now. It needs Moody and Kuminga to be better immediately to take advantage of Curry’s window.
Poole has been flummoxing. At times in his four-year career, he has been Golden State’s best player. When the team’s top stars have faced injuries, he has been counted on to fill their absences as a reliable scorer. Last year, he was a core part of a Golden State team that won a championship, and he started a majority of games during the regular season. Poole was a concrete example of investment in a young player that worked for Golden State.
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