Warriors

Warriors-Lakers on Christmas edging toward being just another NBA game

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Warriors-Lakers on Christmas edging toward being just another NBA game

Nothing has been more amusing over the past five to 10 years than to watch the way the NBA and its greatest media proponents have worked at cross purposes as regards to the notion of the individual game.

On the one hand, every game is reviewed as an instant referendum of trends, truths and future developments in the sport because the 24/7 beast must be fed. On the other, the NBA’s 30 constituent teams have concluded that individual games have limits to their importance, and in some cases, even entire seasons. It’s as if every game is vitally important and occasionally meaningless at the same time.

Thus, we come upon Lakers-Warriors on Christmas Day as an epochal battle between LeBron James and his last remaining ghost, the Golden State Warriors team that has beaten him three times in four NBA Finals and 22 times in 31 games.

It is, of course, no such thing. It’s a fun game to watch for all that, among the 81 wrapped around it, and fun is still the best reason we bother with any of this. But its import will be much overplayed, and not just because of the cheap excuse that “that’s what we do.”

But, and you might not have noticed this, this is an intriguing game because the rest of the Western Conference has caught up with the dynasty-in-the-making, at least in the standings, with the Warriors in their current arrhythmic state. As day dawned Friday, not only were the Warriors behind both the Denver Nuggets and Oklahoma City Thunder, but the Warriors have just a 2½-game gap between themselves and a historically compressed field in which four games separate the Lakers in fourth and the Jimmy Butler-less Minnesota Timberwolves in 14th.

This all could become one more useless snapshot of basketball in a day, as some of those 11 teams eventually will fall off the pace, either by chance or choice. It also could change if the Warriors embrace DeMarcus Cousins to such a point that their offense suddenly becomes properly spaced again and Klay Thompson and Draymond Green find their shooting eye from distance. That, you see, has become a thing people worry about while the Warriors’ middle-of-the-road defense continues to be ignored as a symptom for the team’s slowest start in the championship era.

But maybe the Warriors can be a more interesting team with evident flaws, if only because the rest of the West has risen up to meet them. Golden State is still better than the other contenders when playing with a full complement, and as they should, but the Warriors are finding every game is harder, and that the teams with winning records no longer fear them.

They are 8-9 against teams with those winning records, with a point differential of minus-2.5, and 13-2 against the others, with a point differential of plus-11.2. In short, they are beating bad teams by the same margin as they beat then entire league two years ago, and while Stephen Curry’s injury mattered a lot, so do other injuries to other players.

[RELATED: Ask Kerith Mailbag on Boogie's timeline, halftime insights]

In this new, more egalitarian NBA, the Warriors are trying like everyone else to find their pace, and the idea that they don’t approach every game with the requisite intensity might not be as valid as the fact that their rising tide for four years has raised so many other boats. The league has chased the Warriors and now can reach out and touch them, and that might end up being a more compelling fact than the 32nd meeting between them and a LeBron James-led team.

The Warriors aren’t yet like everyone else, but they're now close enough to upper half of the league that they have become in an odd way a different and more compelling watch. That is a fact that will last longer than the Christmas Day game. The Warriors no longer are a stand-alone event but part of a greater and more fascinating whole.

Steph Curry's one-word answer when asked if Warriors will make playoffs

Steph Curry's one-word answer when asked if Warriors will make playoffs

Kevin Durant. Andre Iguodala. DeMarcus Cousins. Shaun Livingston. What do they have in common?

None of them play for the Warriors anymore.

Klay Thompson is expected to miss a large portion of the season as he recovers from a torn left ACL. Combine all of this with the fact the Western Conference is insanely loaded, and you got people who believe the Dubs will either struggle to make the playoffs or miss the postseason altogether.

Steph Curry played in the American Century Championship celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe over the weekend, and had the following interaction with Marcus Thompson of The Athletic:

The break in the action on the 16th hole was coming to an end. Curry’s turn was near, leaving time for one final question.

Are the Warriors making the playoffs?

He was almost through the word “facts” when he realized it was a question and not a statement. Suddenly, his calm expression disappeared. His face scrunched and his voice elevated above a whisper, adding a shriek for emphasis.

“What?!” he said, playfully agitated by the sheer audacity of the question. “What?!”

The Warriors have reached the playoffs seven straight years. They've appeared in five consecutive NBA Finals, winning three titles.

Curry is a two-time MVP and is on the short list of best players in the NBA. Draymond Green is incredible and always will be underrated.

Golden State added 23-year old D'Angelo Russell, who averaged 21.1 points and 7.0 assists last season en route to making his first All-Star Game.

[RELATEDWarriors didn't sign Russell just to trade him, Myers says]

Head coach Steve Kerr and general manager Bob Myers still are onboard. 

Be careful doubting the Dubs.

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NBA2K20 ratings: Warriors' Steph Curry, Klay Thompson ranked in top 15

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NBA2K20 ratings: Warriors' Steph Curry, Klay Thompson ranked in top 15

Who is the best player in the NBA?

If you asked five different people, you might get five different answers. But where's the fun in that?

Enter the NBA2K video game series. 

The ratings for the top 20 players in the new NBA2K20 game were unveiled Monday, and while it's hard to argue with the players that were included, there's naturally plenty of controversy regarding their respective rankings.

For instance, Warriors fans might feel like Steph Curry belongs in the top five. NBA2K20 disagrees. 

Curry came in as the No. 6 ranked players in NBA2K20 with an overall rating of 95, just behind Houston's James Harden and Brooklyn's Kevin Durant (both 96 overall). 

Rounding out the top three: reigning league MVP Giannis Antetokounpo (96 overall), reigning Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard (97 overall), and finally, the Lakers' LeBron James (97 overall).

Just like his fellow backcourt mate, one could make the case Golden State's Klay Thompson is underrated as well. With an overall rating of 89, Thompson comes in at No. 14 in the player rankings.

While you can quibble with the Splash Brothers' overall rankings, you can't when it comes to their specialized skill sets. Out of all the players in NBA2K20, Curry and Thompson are ranked as the two best 3-point shooters, respectively. Curry has the maximum 3-point shooting rating possible (99), while Thompson isn't far behind at 97. 

Now, the most pressing NBA2K20 ratings question remaining: Where the heck is Draymond Green?