OAKLAND -- There was legitimate concern during the regular season that the day could come when the Warriors would pay a price for having a roster extra deep in big men and extra light elsewhere.
That day arrived Wednesday as the Warriors prepared for Game 2 of their first-round series against Portland.
Starting forward Kevin Durant was ruled out, as was Matt Barnes, the swing forward signed when Durant was injured four months into the regular season. Also sitting is Shaun Livingston, a backup point guard with the physical radius of a forward.
It’s not that the Warriors can’t survive this. But the existing challenges now loom larger. Suddenly, a team that built an elite defense mostly on the arms and chemistry of similar-size players switching off picks is thin on required parts.
“It changes everything, really,” coach Steve Kerr said in his pregame news conference.
Of the 11 Warriors available, three are strictly centers and three more are power forwards who spend considerable time at center.
That leaves five players to man both guard spots and small forward: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Ian Clark, Andre Iguodala and rookie Pat McCaw.
“We’re pretty thin,” Kerr conceded. “And with KD out those six weeks, we basically had a full roster, for the most part. We picked up Matt Barnes and once we got settled, we played pretty well. But we had a lot of depth to rely on. Tonight we’ll be pretty thin. So we’ll have to figure out a way.”
You may recall the Warriors reached agreement with veteran point guard Jose Calderon two days before Durant went down on Feb. 28. Durant’s injury forced an adjustment, with the team honoring its commitment to Calderon and then immediately releasing him to sign Barnes.
With Durant, Livingston and Barnes all sitting for Game 2, the defense is certain to be compromised. They Warriors may play big more often than usual.
“We talked about it a lot the last couple days,” Kerr said. “It complicates things. But it’s just the reality of the NBA. You just adapt and, hopefully, come up with a good plan. And the players go out there and compete and play well.”
Kerr indicated that this will be a short-term problem, saying that it’s possible Durant, Livingston and Barnes could all be ready to play Game 3 Saturday at Portland.
“I think everybody is healing, and on the right path,” Kerr said. “But none of them was ready to play tonight. We still have lots of good players. We’re lucky. We’ve got a lot of talent and we’ve won plenty of games the last couple years with guys down, and that’s the plan tonight.”
The Warriors, to a man, expressed confidence that the available players can provide enough to give them a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. Maybe they can.
But they’ll have to do it while crossing their fingers and hoping the five “smalls” can get them to at least Game 3.