The Golden State Warriors haven't quite been the juggernaut that they've been in years past. At 22-6, they're on pace for 64 wins, which would be their lowest total in four seasons under head coach Steve Kerr.
But the Warriors have won seven straight games, despite the absence of their most important offensive player (Stephen Curry) for each of the last three and the absence of their most important defensive player (Draymond Green) for two of the last three.
They went 6-0 on their longest road trip of the season, and took took care of business (without three starters) back at home against the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday. That game was the start of a stretch where the champs are playing nine of 10 games at Oracle Arena and spending 25 straight days in the state of California. The second game of that stretch is the second game of TNT's Thursday doubleheader, a visit from the Dallas Mavericks at 10:30 p.m. ET.
Here's a number to know as the Warriors try to take their winning streak to eight games against the team that spoiled Kawhi Leonard's season debut on Tuesday.
The Warriors' effective field-goal percentage of 58.5 percent is the highest mark in NBA history.
Not breaking news: The Warriors can shoot.
They're on pace to be just the fourth team in the last 20 years to make more than half their shots. And when you factor in the value of 3-pointers, their shots are more valuable than any of the 1,483 other teams that have played in this league.
If they can keep that mark above 56.34 percent, it will be third straight season in which the Warriors have set the all-time record for effective field-goal percentage.
Through Wednesday's games, five teams - Golden State, Houston, Cleveland, New Orleans and Toronto - have a higher effective field-goal percentage than the 2008-09 Suns, owners of the 10th highest mark in NBA history. If league-wide effective field-goal percentage (52.0 percent) holds up, this would be the third straight season the league has set a new all-time high.
The Warriors, of course, are the cream of the crop. And their shooting is so good, they have the highest mark in offensive efficiency in NBA history (almost 114 points scored per 100 possessions) even though they're one of only four teams that ranks in the bottom 11 in free-throw rate (21st), turnover percentage (25th) and offensive rebounding percentage (20th).
The effective field-goal percentage could certainly regress. But 28 games isn't a small sample size anymore, and 58.5 percent is a higher effective field-goal percentage than the Warriors had in any 28-game stretch last season.
From every area of the floor, the Warriors have shot better than they did last season, seeing their biggest increase from mid-range (between the paint and the 3-point line), where they were already the best shooting team in the league last season.
The Warriors aren't exactly the anti-Rockets, but they don't avoid those mid-range shots nearly as much as Houston does. Klay Thompson ranks eighth in the league with 143 mid-range attempts, and Curry (55 percent), Thompson (50 percent) and Kevin Durant (50 percent) are three of only nine players who have shot 50 percent or better on at least 50.
The Warriors have been depending on their jumpers a little more than they have in the past. This season, 58 percent of their shots, the third highest rate in the league (and up from 56 percent last season), have come from outside the paint.
For the Warriors and for a league as a whole, shots in the paint are worth more than shots from outside the paint. The champs are one of nine teams that have taken less than 30 percent of their shots from the restricted area, the area of the floor that yields the most points per attempt (1.3).
Along with fewer shots in the paint have come fewer trips to the free throw line. Even though they're playing at a faster pace than last season and shooting better from the line, the Warriors have scored 1.1 fewer points per game on free throws.
Still, the shooting. It was great before and it's better now. And you can make up for other deficiencies by putting the ball in the basket more effectively than any team in NBA history.
Curry and Durant actually have seen a drop in effective field goal percentage from last season. So have Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston and JaVale McGee.
But Klay Thompson and Draymond Green have seen increases. Nick Young and Omri Casspi have shot better than the guys they replaced. And David West, in his 15th season, has been the second most improved shooter in the league, seeing his effective field-goal percentage jump from 54 percent to 68 percent, having shot 83 percent in the restricted area and 62 percent from mid-range.
Iguodala (-8.8 percent) and Livingston (-5.8 percent) are both in the bottom 11 of that list, and are the only Warriors (of the 15 that have played this season) with effective field-goal percentages below the league average.
But it's all about the three perimeter players who have taken more than half (53 percent) of the Warriors' shots. Among the 31 players who have attempted at least 400 shots this season, Thompson, Durant and Curry rank second, third and fourth in effective field-goal percentage, with only LeBron James ahead of them.
Shooting is the most important thing in basketball. The Warriors do it more effectively than any other team in history, and that remains the most critical aspect of their quest to win their third championship in the last four years.
- NBA.com/stats Video: Watch the Warriors register a season-high effective field goal percentage of 69.3 percent in Orlando on Dec. 1.
TWO MORE WARRIORS NOTES
1. The Warriors have had the league's best defense since Nov. 1, having allowed 98.4 points per 100 possessions over their last 20 games.
They're one of two teams (the Spurs are the other) that has ranked in the top four defensively each of the last four seasons. But the champs got off to a slow start on that end of the floor, allowing 108 points per 100 possessions through their first eight games and ranking 26th defensively in October.
Their schedule has been a factor in their improvement. In their 20 games since Nov. 1, they've played just four against teams that currently rank in the top 10 in offensive efficiency and seven against the bottom 10. Things will stay easy in that regard, with their next four games against teams - Dallas, the Lakers (x 2) and Memphis - that rank in the bottom 10.
For the season, the Warriors lead the league in opponent effective field goal percentage, No. 1 in opponent field goal percentage both in the paint and outside it. This could be the third time in the last four seasons that they ranked No. 1 in effective field goal percentage on both ends of the floor. The only other team to do it in the last 40 years was the 1980-81 Sixers.
But as is the case on offense, they haven't been so great in the other three factors of efficiency. They've ben a below-average team in regard to defensive rebounding percentage and opponent turnover percentage, and they're right around the league average in opponent free throw rate. All six of their losses have come when their opponents have scored at least 24 points off turnovers and/or at least 18 on second chances.
Still, the most important thing you can do defensively is make your opponents miss shots and no team has done that better than the Warriors. They had a slow start, but, with the most talent in the league and two championships already in hand, they're not a team that's going to wait until April to flip the switch defensively.
Their Christmas game against Cleveland should be a good test, though.
2. The lineup of Curry, Thompson, Iguodala, Durant and Green has been outscored by 13 points in its 58 minutes together..
This is the SuperDeath Lineup or the "Hamptons Five" lineup, that destroyed opponents last season, outscoring them by 24 points per 100 possessions in 224 regular-season minutes (the best mark among lineups that played 200 or more) and by 33 in 65 playoff minutes.
This season, the lineup has been outscored in seven of the 13 games it's played in. In its 71 total games together (since the start of last season), its worst game was at Boston on Nov. 16, when the Celtics outscored it 22-9 in a little more than eight minutes.
Problems with the lineup have been mostly on defense, where opponents have shot 49 percent from the field and have gone to the line 48 times in the 58 minutes. To make things worse, their opponents have shot 45-for-48 (94 percent) on those free throws. In Boston, Kyrie Irving was 7-for-7 from the line down the stretch against the Hamptons Five, and none of those free throws came on intentional fouls.
Opponent free throw rate was high against the lineup last season, too. But it didn't matter, because the Warriors shot so much better than their opponents in those minutes and took care of the ball better than they usually did. That hasn't been the case this season.
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