Overall, this season has just been an extremely trying one for the Golden State Warriors. Thus, this makes them no strangers to adversity. As the old adage goes, there is no better teacher than experience, and the Warriors’ collective playoff pedigree has helped them remain calm under pressure. This showed in the Warriors’ 121-106 victory over the Lakers on Wednesday night, which allowed them to stave off elimination. Here we will be making predictions as to whether they can replicate this sort of performance.
The Warriors are in borderline unprecedented territory. Throughout their nine-year run under the tutelage of head coach Steve Kerr, they have only gone down 3-1 in a series once before doing so again against the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2023 NBA playoffs. This playoff run has brought a bunch of firsts for Stephen Curry and the squad, as they also went down 2-0 in a series for the first time under Kerr against the Sacramento Kings.
And in a season marred by road struggles, can the Warriors pull off the unthinkable at Crypto.com Arena and send the series back to San Francisco?
Of course, the answer to that question is, yes, they can. With an unafraid Stephen Curry leading the way, no one pundit or fan will ever make the unwise decision of counting the Warriors out. But will the stars align for the reigning champion Dubs? Or will this be the beginning of the end for this aging crew?
A lot of this will hinge on Anthony Davis’ status for Game 6; Davis exited that contest after taking an elbow to his face late in Game 5, and he had to exit the game as a result. Davis may not miss Game 6 for the world, but he could very well be limited. Nevertheless, what the Warriors can do now is take care of the things that they can control.
Here are three bold predictions for how the Warriors would perform in yet another must-win contest in Game 6 against the Lakers.
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Game 6 Klay shows up
Playoff alter-egos are reserved for those who routinely show up under the bright lights of the playoffs. Playoff Jimmy Butler. Playoff Kawhi Leonard (when he’s healthy). But there may not be a more showstopping presence in the basketball world than Klay Thompson’s Game 6 alter-ego.
Thompson’s Game 6 legend began on May 28, 2016. The Warriors, like they are now against the Lakers, found themselves down 3-2 on the road against the Oklahoma City Thunder, a team led by two All-NBA talents, similar to the Purple and Gold today. The Thunder led for much of that game, and yet there Thompson was, giving everything he had so his team wouldn’t suffer a premature elimination.
Klay Thompson ended the night with 41 points, nailing 11 triples on the night including a preposterously deep three to drive the dagger into the Thunder’s hearts.
Of course, a lot has happened since then. Thompson has suffered two major lower-body injuries, and in this series against the Lakers, he has struggled to put the ball through the hoop at his usual rate. That’s what makes this a bold prediction; Thompson hasn’t been at his best against the Lakers, and given how glued the defense has been on him, it’s hard to envision the Warriors sharpshooter having an easier time than he’s had.
But Thompson is a proven big-game player, and with the Warriors in need of a huge performance on the road, expect him to come through once more.
Jordan Poole scores 20+ points
There’s no question that Jordan Poole played a huge part in the Warriors’ championship win last year. But a lot can change in the span of a year, and Poole’s shotmaking has declined considerably relative to last season. Poole’s struggles have made the Warriors’ life much more difficult, and when he’s not making shots, he’s not contributing at a high enough level in other facets of the game to warrant heavy minutes.
But in Game 6, with the Warriors having to win on the road where they’ve had struggles aplenty this year, they will need an unsung hero to rise from the fringes. And Poole certainly has the skillset to do so.
Warriors inexplicably win the free-throw battle
It has been a back-and-forth between the Warriors and Lakers when it comes to working the referees; Steve Kerr has already done his part by bringing up the possibility that the Lakers are embellishing contact leading to unwarranted illegal screen calls, while Darvin Ham has fired back, wondering why his team just attempted 15 free throws despite playing the same way.
In a crucial Game 6 though, the referees should be more inclined to let the game breathe. If that happens, expect the Warriors to capitalize, even winning the free-throw battle against all odds as they send the series back to San Francisco.
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