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The Weekly Dish
by Brian Witt
The Warriors haven't started the 2017-18 season the way they had hoped, but they're not hanging their heads.
For the week of Monday, Oct. 23 – Sunday, Oct. 29
Just a few months ago, the Golden State Warriors completed the most successful postseason run in NBA history, going 16-1 on their way to the NBA Championship. A week into the 2017-18 regular season, the Warriors have already accumulated more losses than they did throughout that entire playoff campaign. So, the sky is falling, right?
Well, not exactly.
A team doesn't win two championships and make three consecutive Finals series without facing significant adversity. The Dubs' slow start to the 2017-18 regular season has illuminated areas of needed improvement, but it's nothing they're not used to at this point. As Kevin Durant said following Golden State's defeat in Memphis on Saturday, "We're fine, man. We're fine. We've just got to stay positive, not hang our heads and move on. We've got a long season ahead of us."
Durant is right. There is a long season ahead of the Warriors, and if they have it their way, it will last longer than any other team's in the league. But in order for that to happen, they know they have to be better, and the slow start was at least somewhat anticipated. After all, three-straight trips to the Finals, with various international competitions mixed in, can take a toll on players. Factor in Golden State's preseason trip to China, which one can assume everyone involved is still adjusting from, and it's easy to see why the Dubs may not be operating at the premiere level they were back in June.
"Obviously, if you ask anybody in this locker room, nobody was expecting us to play at the level where we left off last year," center Zaza Pachulia said. "That's normal. Maybe that's even good. We need to work harder to prepare ourselves for April, May, June."
Of primary concern now for Golden State is getting right on the defensive end. They posted a defensive rating of 110.3 points allowed per 100 possessions through their first three games, which ranks as third-worst in the NBA. Steve Kerr has stated it's the team's goal to rank amongst the top five defensive teams in the league by season's end, and they've dug themselves a bit of hole to start out. The good news is, it's only been three games, and some solid defensive performances in their next several games should get that defensive rating back to where we're accustomed to seeing it.
More good news: the offense has suffered no such problems. The Warriors are averaging 113.3 points per 100 possessions on offense, which is superior to their offensive rating of 113.2 from last season. And, they've actually started better offensively this season, too; Golden State averaged just 103.9 points per 100 possessions through their first three games last year.
Last bit of good news: if history repeats itself, better times are ahead for the Warriors, and they're approaching rapidly. In each of the last three seasons dating back to 2014-15, Golden State has ripped off winning streaks of 16, seven and 12 games following their second loss. Take that for what you will.
Standout Spotlight: Kevin Durant
We are all extremely familiar with Kevin Durant, dominant scoring aficionado. But may I present, Kevin Durant, (extremely) early favorite for Defensive Player of the Year?
Look, Durant will always be best known for his offense, and for good reason. But it's become increasingly clear that he can be a force on the defensive end as well. He put those defensive skills on display in the 2017 Finals, and has carried that momentum into this new season, where he has accumulated 14 blocks through the first three games. That's at least twice as many blocks as every other player in the league besides DeMarcus Cousins, who ranks second with 10. Half of Durant's league-leading block total was accumulated in Golden State's victory over New Orleans last Friday, in which he also accounted for 22 points, eight rebounds and a sequence in which he recorded two blocks while wearing only one shoe. Hey, whatever works.
"A couple years ago, I didn't really know how to play team defense that well," Durant said following that victory. "More and more, I'm learning about team defense and making multiple efforts. I'm able to get my hand on basketballs."
"I want to be one of the best defenders in the league," he added.
He's already well on his way, and if he keeps this up, no one will be able to deny him that status.
The Week Ahead:
Golden State plays four games in the week ahead, with one on the road before finishing with three-straight at Oracle Arena. First up, the Dubs will play the final game of their current three-game road trip in Dallas on Monday night, after which they'll return home for three consecutive games against Eastern Conference foes. The Warriors will host the Raptors on Replica Ring Night and Wizards on Al Attles Bobblehead Night on Wednesday and Friday, respectively, before finishing off the week against the Pistons on Filipino Heritage Night on Sunday. All three of those opponents will be making their one and only trip to Oracle Arena this season.
Till next week.