The Golden State Warriors qualify these days in the NBA as the irresistible force not only with their 13-0 start, but also Thursday’s 23-point comeback win against the Los Angeles Clippers. The question for Jimmy Butler and the Bulls Friday in Oakland is whether they can become the immovable object.
Because then something’s gotta give.
“Impossible to guard,” said Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich, who will be among many to get a chance to play Curry. “The way he’s playing right now is out of his mind. It’s fun to watch. Nobody has found an answer for it yet. I think he’s definitely in a league of his own in that (shooting and ball handling) category. Just his skill set, the way he passes, shoots from anywhere; he has it all. The level he’s doing it at; since I’ve been in the league I really haven’t seen that. You knew how he could shoot the ball. But his all around skill set seems like it’s gotten better every year and he’s just taking it to a whole other level. It’s just ridiculous what he’s doing. It’s amazing.”
So fight, fight, fight with all of your might. The Bulls hope to make it their star spangled night in the most raucous arena in the NBA, Golden State’s Oracle.
No one has figured out yet Curry and the Warriors, and the Bulls will be trying without Aaron Brooks after he strained his hamstring in Wednesday’s win over the Suns, and perhaps Derrick Rose.
Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said Rose didn’t attempt much at practice Thursday in Phoenix before the team left for San Francisco. Rose remains day to day and the Bulls listed him as questionable in their daily injury report.
“It’s still too early to tell if he’ll be able to go,” said Hoiberg. “I think it’s going to be a game time decision. He didn’t do much today. I don’t know for sure. We prepped E’Twaun (Moore) for running that second unit (as point guard). He’s (Rose) going to try; there’s no doubt about that. He wants to be out there, he wants to play. But we’ll be smart with it (with the next game Tuesday). He was moving around more today, doing some lateral slides but not with a lot of speed. He’ll get a couple treatments today and some tomorrow and see where he is.”
If anything is an advantage against the high octane Warriors these days, the Bulls get them in their third game in four nights and after the tough, impressive comeback win in Los Angeles. Of course, the Warriors, who have already started talk of a 73-wn season to surpass the 1995-96 Bulls, play with seemingly effortless ease with three-point shooting and small lineups that fatigue may not be a concern. And Curry’s 33.7 per game leads the league by a wide margin.
“It’s a similar game plan to Phoenix as far as getting back in transition,” said Hoiberg, though the Bulls were outscored 23-7 on fast break points by the Suns. That’s where it starts. You just look at their numbers across the board. They’re first in three pointers made, first in three point percentage, first in assists, first in pace. They’re just so good at getting that ball up and down the floor. You have to come out and try and slow them down a little bit. The way they move…when you’re watching their games it’s like you’re hitting the fast forward button. They just play with such great pace, and they move, they cut; so it’s a fun team to watch. Not a fun team to play, but a fun team to watch.’’
Hoiberg without saying wants his Bulls team to play like that with the pace and ball and player movement in the halfcourt that ends up with so many of those open corner three pointers for players like Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala that the focus on Curry can be too much.
“You have to plan your game plan around a superstar,” agreed Hoiberg. “You did it when you played the old Bulls teams with Michael, with LeBron; that’s where it starts with that team. The same thing with Golden State with Steph. But they have other guys who can hurt you as well. Klay Thompson, Draymond Green is a key in their success. Harrison Barnes. If you take away one guy and have your whole defensive plan, they’ll hurt you in other ways.”
But there’s that head of the snake thing and it does start with Curry.
The Clippers Thursday had a good first half plan with physical play, though they seemed to tire and sag as the Warriors made three after three late.
The general consensus to have success against Curry you have to meet him just after he crosses half court, bump him and play him physically and keep size on him, a taller and longer armed player. The Clippers had some success early running at him and making him step inside the three point line. But they seemed to switch too much. Jimmy Butler, the star of Wednesday’s Bulls win with 32 points, already has asked to defend Curry. Butler went 43 minutes in the win over the Suns, but those sorts of games are not new for him. Can he sustain that pressure all game with a player who constantly moves like Curry?
One theory is to play some zone with box-and-one principles since the Warriors don’t always move as well when Curry is out. But that isn’t something we’ve seen from the Bulls this season and this is no time to experimentation.
“I think Jimmy loves the challenge,” said Hoiberg. “He always wants to be matched up with the other team’s best player and he wants the ball in his hands late. We obviously rode him all the way to the finish line (in Phoenix) and he was unbelievable. He came through with some huge plays. And again, I tried to take him out a few times and he just said, ‘I’m good, don’t take me out of this game.’
“I thought [Wednesday] night was a step in the right direction as far as physicality was concerned,” said Hoiberg. “That Phoenix team was pressuring us all over the floor and I thought we did a really good job. Down the stretch, I thought we matched that toughness and physicality. You have to try getting into his body; but again, he’s so good at getting you off. You just have to try and stay into him and make him take tough shots.’
Never having been able to master much science, like most who failed science we went into journalism. So I’ll treat the irresistible force and immovable object more as a philosophical question. The famous paradox is the man trying to sell a spear and a shield. This, obviously, is some years ago as weapons sales have become somewhat more sophisticated.
He says the spear is so sharp it will pierce any shield. And the shield is so strong it will stop any spear.
So who wins?
Thus far it’s been the attack of Stephen Curry and the Warriors