(Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images)
The Weekly Dish
by Brian Witt
Now in the 'dog days' of the season, the Warriors are learning valuable lessons that should pay off down the line.
For the week of Monday, Jan. 9 – Sunday, Jan. 15
There are 82 games in the regular season, and when you get to the end of it, they all count the same.
The Warriors' gut-wrenching loss to the Grizzlies on Friday certainly stung, but the fact of the matter is, it carries no greater weight in the final standings than Golden State's bounceback victory over Sacramento on Sunday. It is a long season, filled with countless twists and turns, and the Warriors – as mighty as they are and have been – are not exempt from that often-humbling reality.
We have yet to reach the season's midway point, but are approaching that demarcation rapidly, and despite a couple recent slipups, the Warriors remain very much in tremendous position. They became the first team ever to win 30 of their first 35 games in three consecutive seasons following their victory over Denver on Monday.
They now rank first, fourth and second in the league in offensive rating, defensive rating and pace, respectively, and would need to lower their defensive rating by just 0.6 points against per 100 possessions in order to be on pace to become just the second team in NBA history to finish the season ranking in the top-two in all three of those categories. The only other team to do it? That would be the 2014-15 Golden State Warriors, who went on to win the Championship later that season.
The fact of the matter is, it is an extreme rarity in NBA history to find a team that plays so fast, yet is so remarkably efficient on both ends of the floor. Typically one attribute comes at the expense of at least one other, but that is what makes the Warriors such a complicated task to overcome.
They are currently playing some of their best offensive basketball of the season, having shot at least 50 percent from the field while dishing out at least 30 assists in five of their last six games. There have been a total of 98 games this season in which an NBA team has accumulated at least 30 assists, and 26 of those instances belong to Golden State; no other team has done it more than seven times.
The offensive surge has coincided with a slight drop-off on the defensive end, as the Dubs are allowing 5.6 more points against per 100 possessions over their last eight games compared to their season average. However, given the fact that the Warriors are on pace for the highest scoring average the league has seen in 25 years, they can get away with a defensive hiccup every once in awhile.
Now, as Golden State navigates its way through what Steve Kerr recently referred to as the 'dog days' of the season, maybe it's not the worst thing the Dubs lost the way they did to the Grizzlies.
"I'm actually happy we lost today because there are some things that we need to correct in order to win a championship," said Draymond Green following the defeat. "That's our goal… So, I'm kind of thrilled we lost because you usually make corrections when you lose."
Those are the kinds of defeats that stick with a team, and if the Warriors can take the lessons they learned from that game and apply them in their moments of need moving forward, perhaps they'll be less likely to repeat the same errors when the stakes are even greater. Already we've seen the Warriors put their experience into action, as two nights after blowing a 16-point lead to Memphis, the Dubs erased a 16-point deficit in a comeback victory over the Kings.
We may be in the 'dog days' now, but those trying times are just around the corner.
Standout Spotlight: Stephen Curry
Historically, Stephen Curry's play has tended to improve as the season has gone on, and given the way the reigning MVP began 2017, that may prove to be the case yet again. Curry posted averages of 31.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game while shooting 50.0 percent from the field and 39.1 percent from three-point range in the Warriors' four games last week, and was named Western Conference Player of the Week for his accomplishments. It's the eighth career Player of the Week honor for Curry, more than any other player in franchise history, and the second for the Warriors this season (Kevin Durant earned the award for games played from November 21-27).
He topped the 30-point mark in each of their last three games, and his 105 points over that span are the most he's scored over any three-game sequence so far this season. He made five three-pointers in each of those games, upping his total to 144 on the season, which puts him on pace for 311 treys in the 2016-17 campaign. As a reminder, Curry became the first player to convert more than 286 threes in a single season when he shattered the NBA record with 402 treys a season ago. That just goes to show how incredible of a season he had last year on his way to being named the first-ever unanimous league MVP, and just because he hasn't replicated or exceeded those mind-boggling numbers this season doesn't mean he hasn't been among the league's best players thus far.
"If you look at it from a practical standpoint, he's doing great," said Steve Kerr of Curry. "His numbers are still fantastic…but he also happens to be coming off the greatest shooting season in the history of mankind last year, and so he has set the bar so high for himself that it's going to be a point of discussion."
Something that may have been left out of that discussion: Going into Sunday's win over Sacramento, Curry was converting 69.0 percent of his layup attempts, the highest percentage of any player in the NBA. For reference, LeBron James was second at 68.2 percent, while Kevin Durant was third at 67.3 percent.
The Week Ahead:
The Warriors inch ever closer to the midway point of the season with two more games this coming week. The Dubs will tip off a four-game homestand on Tuesday night against the Heat before hosting the Pistons on Thursday in what will be Miami and Detroit's sole visits to the Bay Area this regular season. While the Warriors' possess the NBA's top rated attack, both of the Warriors' opponents' offenses this week rank in the bottom third of the league, meaning Golden State would be wise to take full advantage of that discrepancy as they attempt to build momentum at the start of this homestand.