OAKLAND, Calif. — Go small or go home.
That might as well be the new mantra for the Golden State Warriors in the playoffs. With center Andrew Bogut out for the foreseeable future with a fractured right rib, the Warriors are searching for a way to replace their best interior defender in a rotation that already lacks big men.
Warriors coach Mark Jackson has flirted with smaller lineups late this season, and playing “small ball” in the playoffs could be his only option when backup center Jermaine O’Neal is not on the floor.
“You can see it. It’s a lineup we’re going to have to use at some point, and I’m fine with using it,” Jackson said. “The thing that we’re going to have to make sure we do is battle defensively when we go with that lineup in the paint area.”
The Warriors (50-31) play at Denver in their regular-season finale Wednesday night. They are locked into the sixth seed in the Western Conference and will most likely begin the postseason at the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday or Sunday.
Defending DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin of the Clippers, of course, could pose a major problem without Bogut in the paint.
Bogut averaged just 7.3 points, 10 rebounds and 1.81 blocks in 67 games this season, but he is among the league leaders in several defensive ratings and played a major role in Golden State’s run to the second round of last year’s playoffs. Complicating matters more, the Warriors have just one healthy big man behind Bogut.
Last year’s backup center, Festus Ezeli, has been out all season recovering from right knee surgery and is not ready to play. Jackson also indicated that seldom-used reserve centers Hilton Armstrong and Ognjen Kuzmic are likely not options to suddenly start logging heavy minutes at the most important time of the year.