Barry: Different rules for playoffs aside, Warriors adjust well to physical play 

click to enlarge Stephen Curry
  • Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP file photo
  • Stephen Curry, battling with the Pelicans’ Tyreke Evans, left, Quincy Pondexter, top, and Anthony Davis, right, near the basket, and the Warriors showed plenty of playoff toughness and grit during their Game 1 victory in the best-of-seven series.
When I hear people talk about “playoff basketball,” I get a bit riled. Would someone show me the rule book for the playoffs? Please? The last time I checked, there wasn’t one. The rules of basketball during the regular season and the playoffs should be one and the same — period. Unfortunately, they are not.

“Playoff basketball” usually means that the rules are relaxed and the game becomes much more physical. Allowing this to happen makes it easier for the less-skilled players and the less-talented teams to compete. Why reward the less proficient? Holding, pushing, grabbing and banging does not require skill. If anything, the rules for the playoffs should be stricter. Make the game a contest of skill and proficiency, not a matchup of clumsiness and brutality.

Seriously, if the officials called more fouls early, the players would adjust and we could all enjoy a better brand of playoff basketball. I would also like to see the rules of traveling and moving screens more strictly enforced. Allowing these rules violations during the regular season or the playoffs is insulting to the integrity of the game.

As it concerns the Warriors, the question becomes, can a highly skilled, up-tempo team succeed in the current state of “playoff basketball”? Can the players adjust their mindsets, elevate their games and deal with the increased physical play against elite competition on a consistent basis? The answer is yes. I feel strongly about this because the team has made a concerted commitment to defense, an essential requirement to win an NBA championship. If we assume the playoffs will be a more physical style of play, their defense should be even more effective.

I’d say the Warriors met their first challenge against the New Orleans Pelicans in the postseason opener. The more physical style was apparent, so much so that Stephen Curry pointed out blood and scratches on his forearm to the referee. Obviously, he wasn’t going to get those calls — it’s the playoffs. Steph didn’t shoot 3s very well, and Klay Thompson shot poorly from 2-point range. Neither shot well at the free throw line. Even so, the Warriors’ up-tempo, unselfish brand of basketball prevailed.

One warning: When you’ve got a team down by 25 points, you need to bury them. Allowing the Pelicans a glimmer of hope down the stretch was certainly not part of coach Steve Kerr’s game plan.

Normally, to win consistently in basketball, you have to prevent second-chance points, minimize the opponent’s fastbreaks and inhibit their ability to get to the basket on offense. The Warriors boasted the best record in the league without excelling in two of these areas. They are in the bottom third of the league in points allowed on fastbreaks and they are near the bottom of the league in second-chance points allowed. Thanks to an explosive offense and a commitment to team defense, these apparent weaknesses were nullified.

First and foremost, the Warriors are an outside-shooting team. They do have an inside presence, but the majority of their offense comes from the better than 40 percent 3-point shooting of Splash Brothers Curry and Thompson, along with Harrison Barnes and five other players who shoot better than 30 percent from beyond the arc. Relying on perimeter shooting exclusively, however, would be a mistake, one that Kerr will not make. The Dubs must not get caught up in the physical, slowdown game that is the trademark of many playoff teams. They must continue to make every attempt to impose their up-tempo style of play on the opposition and trust their defensive philosophies.

As much as I dislike the fact that “playoff basketball” exists, I just have to accept it. I will continue to support the Warriors even as they are being held, pushed and beaten up, some of which we saw in the opener.

Rick Barry played eight season for the Warriors and was the captain of their only Bay Area NBA championship team. In 1987, he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. His commentary will appear exclusively in The San Francisco Examiner throughout the playoffs.

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