(Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images)
The Weekly Dish
by Brian Witt
In getting back to their balanced two-way game, the Warriors have gotten back to who they are.
For the week of Monday, Mar. 20 – Sunday, Mar. 26
A week ago, Steve Kerr said the Warriors needed to “get back to who [they] are.” Seven days and three games later, it appears Golden State may be well on their way to doing just that.
There’s no place like home, as they say. That case has proven to be true time and time again for the Warriors over the last several years, and it was evident over this past week as the Dubs completed an undefeated three-game homestand on Saturday night. But it wasn’t just the fact that Golden State won those games; it was more the manner in which they did so that was so encouraging.
Prior to last week, the Dubs had lost five of seven games, beginning with the defeat in Washington in which Durant went down with a left knee injury. Without Durant, the offense wasn’t as crisp and the defense wasn’t operating at top form either. Although Durant remains sidelined, the Dubs once again resembled one of the top two-way teams in the Association over the last three games.
In their three victories over the Sixers, Magic and Bucks last week, the Dubs’ offense was humming like its typical self. They averaged 30.0 assists per contest, scored 113.9 points per 100 possessions and capped the week off with one of their top shooting performances of the year, shooting 60.0 percent (45-of-75 FG) from the floor for the fourth time this season.
But you don’t post consecutive 30 and 25-point victories on offense alone. To do so requires a staunch defensive effort, and that’s precisely where the Warriors made their biggest strides this past week.
Golden State held their three opponents last week to an average of 91.9 points per 100 possessions. To further clarify, that’s less than a point per possession, and compares favorably with the Warriors’ second-ranked defensive rating of 101.3 points against per 100 possessions on the season to date. In fact, the Warriors’ defensive success last week lowered their post-All-Star break defensive rating to 100.1 points against per 100 possessions, which is tops in the entire Association. Perhaps all the more impressive, that’s despite the fact that Golden State has been the very worst defensive rebounding team in the league over that same span.
Now, granted, that means the Dubs have some work to do on the defensive glass, but it also goes to show how well the Warriors have been defending, particularly considering the additional opportunities their opponents have been afforded. Clearly, there is still room for improvement in a multitude of areas, but in getting back to their balanced two-way game, the Warriors have indeed gotten back to who they are.
Standout Spotlight: Stephen Curry
Team improvement aside, there may not be a more indicative example of the Warriors’ resurgence than the play of the two-time defending MVP, Stephen Curry. It was odd for awhile there to watch Curry go through a dry-spell the likes of which he hadn’t really experienced throughout his decorated career, but if there’s one thing that sets him (and Klay Thompson) apart from the other shooters in the NBA, it’s the combination of unwavering confidence and a short memory. Regardless of how many they’ve missed in a row, the greatest shooters always expect the next one to go in, and eventually for Curry, it did.
Over the course of the homestand, Curry averaged 27.3 points, 3.7 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game in just 31.9 minutes per contest, after sitting out the entire fourth quarter in Golden State’s two blowout victories to close the week. But even more encouraging than the raw numbers was the efficiency with which they were attained. Curry shot 49.0 percent from the field, 46.4 percent from three-point range and a perfect 100 percent from the free-throw line over those three games, his best individual stretch since Durant went down with the injury. His six three-pointers on Saturday against the Bucks were the most he’s made on eight-or-fewer attempts this season, and pushed his season total to 262 made treys, good enough for the seventh-most all-time. In fact, he now owns five of the top-eight single season three-point totals in NBA history.
The Week Ahead:
By this time next week, the number of games remaining in Golden State’s regular season schedule will be down to single digits. Of the 13 games that currently remain, only five take place on the road, but the first two of those contests begin the Warriors’ slate in the week ahead. The Dubs start the week with their second-to-last road back-to-back sequence of the season, first taking on the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday before facing the Mavericks in Dallas on Tuesday night. Following that trek, it’s back to Oracle Arena for the final two games of the week. Golden State will host the Sacramento Kings and Memphis Grizzlies on Friday and Sunday night, respectively, in what will be the Warriors’ final regular season matchup with both teams. The Dubs currently hold a full two-game lead over San Antonio for the top spot in the West, and with each additional victory Golden State is able to claim in the week ahead, the Warriors could inch ever closer to securing the top seed in the conference.