(Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images)
The Weekly Dish
by Brian Witt
It's still early in the season, but the Warriors have already made NBA history.
For the week of Monday, Nov. 13 – Sunday, Nov. 19
The Warriors are only 13 games into the 2017-18 regular season, and yet, they've already accomplished something that no other team has done in almost 30 years.
With three more wins over the Heat, Timberwolves and 76ers last week, Golden State has now won its last six games, each decided by a margin of 17 points or more. That ties the NBA record for most consecutive games won by at least 17 points, set by the Phoenix Suns in January of 1990.
We've seen the Warriors beat teams with their enviable collection of offensive weapons. We've seen the Dubs stifle opponents with their relentless, suffocating defense. But right now, Golden State is putting forth the best of both worlds.
Let's start with the offensive side. The Warriors scored an average of 119.0 points per game in their three victories last week, which is actually just slightly below their season average of 120.3 points per contest. However, if you expand the scope to include the entirety of the six-game winning streak, the Warriors are averaging 122.8 points per game and 117.6 points per 100 possessions over that span. Both of those numbers are considerably superior to their league-leading averages from a season ago.
For whatever reason, the Dubs have been particularly dominant in the third quarter, and that's not exactly a new thing, either. After averaging a league-best 31.2 points in the third frame last season, Golden State has stepped it up another notch and is now averaging 32.6 points in the third quarter so far this season, 2.8 more points than any other team in the Association. During the current winning streak, the Dubs have outscored their opponents by an average of 12.5 points in the third quarter, and they've been especially lethal over the last two games, putting up a combined total of 80 points in the third frame.
Due partly to their third quarter offensive explosions, the Warriors took leads of 18, 19 and 16 points into the fourth quarter in each of their victories last week. For the three games before that, Golden State held leads of 27, six and 21 points entering the final frame. All that breaks down to an average of a 17.8-point advantage at the end of the third quarter during the current winning streak, and clearly, the Warriors have been able to maintain or even increase that lead in the fourth quarters that have followed. And since they've held such large leads going into the fourth, Steve Kerr has had the luxury of resting his starters and allowing his reserves to finish off the resounding victories. For instance, Stephen Curry led all NBA players in plus-minus last week (plus-70), despite playing in only one fourth quarter. Over the course of the current six-game winning streak, Curry has played a grand total of seven fourth quarter minutes, and attempted just two field goal attempts in that time.
On the opposite side of the court, Golden State's defensive performance has been just as impressive as of late. The Warriors limited their opponents to 98.3 points per game last week, and have had the NBA's best defense over the course of the current winning streak, holding their opponents to 94.9 points per 100 possessions. After starting off the season with a couple defensive duds, this recent defensive resurgence has brought Golden State all the way up to ninth in the NBA in defensive rating (102.1) on the season as a whole.
Standout Spotlight: Kevon Looney
On a team as star-studded as the Warriors, there's inevitably going to be a time crunch for minutes. Heck, a reserve might go multiple games in a row without being active. What's important, though, is taking advantage of the opportunities, whenever they are presented. This past week and throughout the early part of this season, Kevon Looney has done exactly that.
Quick trivia: Who is the youngest player on Golden State?
Hint: He wasn't taken in either of the last two NBA Drafts, and he's not on a two-way contract.
That's right, at still 21 years of age in his third NBA season, Kevon Looney is the youngest player on the Warriors' roster (He'll turn 22 this coming February). It's been easy to lose sight of that reality due to the fact that for the vast majority of Looney's first two years in the NBA, he was hurt and unable to make much of an impact. However, the youngest Warrior dropped 20 pounds over the offseason and came into training camp in the best shape of his career. The dividends have been immediate, as Looney is consistently showing flashes of the talent that compelled many pundits to list him as a potential lottery pick before arriving in Golden State.
His numbers won't jump off the page – Looney averaged 3.0 points, 2.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in 14.5 minutes per game last week – but nonetheless, he often made an impact whenever he was on the court. And given what he's had to go through to get to this point, including multiple hip surgeries, his team couldn't be any happier for him.
"He hasn't surprised me with his play because we knew he knew how to play and that he could play," said Steve Kerr of Looney following Golden State's victory over the 76ers on Saturday. "What has surprised me is the fact that he came in 20 pounds lighter and healthier. This is the first time he's been healthy and that was the biggest question mark with Loon. I'm just so happy for him because he's earned this. He's worked so hard and is such a good guy and a good young player. He's been really good for us."
The stats back up Kerr's assertion. Golden State has outscored their opponents by 13.0 points per 100 possessions when Looney has been on the court so far this season, and he's got the sixth-best individual defensive rating of anyone on the team. The combination of his intelligence, length and improved fitness has permitted him to be a viable interior defender in the modern NBA.
"The way the modern game is played," Kerr continued, "our big guys have to be able to switch and get out on the perimeter, get back and protect the paint. He does all of that. He's a very instinctive player. He's not the most athletic guy, but he's always in the right spot and a really, really bright player."
On a team like the Warriors, Looney's minutes are going to be more limited than they would be otherwise. But if he continues playing like this, he's going to deserve more and more.
The Week Ahead:
The home-road seesaw of the Warriors season continues in the week ahead, as Golden State will finish off a homestand before heading out on another road trip. First, the Warriors will attempt to go 4-0 on their current homestand when they host the Orlando Magic on Monday on Stephen Curry Bobblehead Night. Then Golden State will head out on an East Coast road trip, the first three games of which will be played in a span of four days. The road trip commences on Thursday in Boston against the East-leading Celtics, in what could be the most anticipated game from a league perspective of the season thus far. Following that, the Dubs will close out the week with a road back-to-back over the weekend, as the Warriors will face the 76ers in Philadelphia on Saturday before taking on the Nets in Brooklyn on Sunday. Those four opponents are currently a combined 10 games over .500, meaning Golden State's current hot streak will likely be put to the test, particularly considering the road slate.
Till next week.