Updated: December 26, 2021

With the number 1 seed on the line and the two best records in the NBA matched up head-to-head on Christmas Day, was there anything else basketball fans could wish for? Well, one would definitely be fully healthy rosters and the end of this safety protocol catastrophe that has left nearly every rotation crippled…that is except the Phoenix Suns. Hosting the Golden State Warriors in Arizona with Devon Booker back in the lineup, Vegas had Phoenix a +6 for the win at home against a depleted Dubs squad. Excluding the normal big names sidelined in Klay Thompson and young James Wisemen—Iggy, Wiggins, Poole, Damien Lee, and rookie Moses Moody all were out with safety protocols. Come playoff time, that is at the very least 5 of the core rotation pieces Kerr will use in a 7-game series…and yet none of that mattered.

With 20 minutes from 19-year-old Jonathan Kuminga and 14 minutes from garage sale G-leaguer Quinndary Weatherspoon, Golden State dominated the 4th quarter of a back & forth thriller in the desert. In 37 minutes of play, Curry put up 33, 5 triples, on a monster +24 in an MVP season that feels like destiny. The story though in the 4th was a player anyone could have signed with their mid-level in the offseason, and that is the new fan favorite, in one Otto Porter Jr. With 13 huge double-digit points in the final quarter of play, OPJ has proven over and over that he is built for big moments and tough shot-making. Shooting 40% from 3 for the season as a newly formed 4/5 with rim protection and a thirst for blocking shots in the paint, as a versatile wing/big, he may end up being the steal of the offseason.

Because of the Warriors’ stack of young assets and picks available, so much has been made about what they can acquire at the trade deadline, and yet, do they not already have their theoretical closing lineup in the playoffs? Curry, Klay, Wiggins, OPJ, and Dray is not only the best lineup in basketball if Klay is even 70% of himself, but also it’s quite difficult to think of a reasonable trade that somehow upgrades this closing squad. Sure, the Looney minutes could look better with an All-Star level center, but when push comes to shove, Draymond is going to be at the 5 late in games in the postseason. With the development of Porter Jr.’s rim protection this year, he is a perfect fit in the frontcourt with the defensive player of the year in floor-general Green.

With Andrew Wiggins shooting 42% from 3, OPJ at 40, and the notorious Game 6 killer in Klay Thompson, how exactly are teams supposed to handle the two-man game of Draymond and Steph? And this 5 man lineup doesn’t even include the most-improved player nominee Jordan Poole whose averaging 18 a game or the defensive monster guard Young Glove, Gary Payton II. The thought before was that between these two Pacific Division teams is that Golden State had the best player in the series, but that the Phoenix machine and the totality of their depth would give them a numbers advantage.

That narrative is starting to sway. Not only is Curry clearly the best player on the floor for either team as the Suns entire defensive is monopolized by their struggles to stop him, with the emergence of young Gary Payton, (22 points against Memphis & 14 points in Phoenix in his first +30 mins games), it appears it is the Warriors who have the deeper and more dependable bench. Especially Kerr if is going to utilize 19-year-old Kuminga (who was a +5 with 12 points in 20 minutes last night), Golden State may head into the playoffs going 13-deep.

Even with the Chiozza minutes freed up, as he is assumed not to be a contributor come the postseason, the Dubs have an entire 15 man roster of players they want on the floor. And if the Suns are not going exploit the Warriors bigs and allow Bjelica to play 20 minutes as a net-neutral player even with Curry off the floor, what is this matchup going to look like when the Warriors are fully loaded?

So much has been made about the Golden State’s lack of size and the DeAndre Ayton problem, yet he had the quietest 18 points of the season on 10 attempts. The truth is there is something visually disturbing when a team has a lack of size and gets abused on a few consecutive possessions down low in the paint. The reason for this is, it looks like their opponent can simply just toss it in inside every time for constant success. With the best defensive in basketball and possibly the best small-ball 5 defensively of all time in Draymond Green, the latter of that thought experiment is simply a fallacy. There will always be moments where Golden State looks vulnerable inside in any given game. It is by design. Lineups are created with give and take—pros and cons. And as the Dubs dominated the 4th quarter in Phoenix without a player taller than 6’9, maybe the narratives on lack of size should be reconsidered.

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