(Ezra Shaw/NBAE/Getty Images)
The Weekly Dish
by Brian Witt
No lead is safe, a lesson the Warriors have already given and received this season.
For the week of Monday, Nov. 20 – Sunday, Nov. 26
If the Warriors proved one thing last week, it was that no lead is safe in the NBA this season. If there was another, it was that the Dubs are still pretty darn good, even when without one of their star players.
The latter of those two conclusions was evident in Golden State’s wins over Orlando and Brooklyn that bookended the week, as the Dubs prevailed over both opponents despite playing without Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant, respectively. And in both instances, the former league MVPs put on splendid performances in the absence of the other. Durant had 21 points, a season-high eight assists and seven rebounds against the Magic, while Curry established season-highs with 39 points and 11 rebounds against the Nets on Sunday.
Now, back to that first takeaway.
The Warriors saw both sides of the comeback coin this week, as they led by as many as 17 points against the Celtics before eventually losing 92-88 in Boston on Thursday. Then, in Golden State’s very next game, the Dubs trailed by 22 points at halftime before mounting a major second half surge to stun the 76ers in Philadelphia on Saturday. The loss in Boston represented the third time in Golden State’s four defeats this season that they’ve blown a lead of 14 points or more. The comeback victory in Philadelphia was the Warriors’ fourth double-digit comeback this season, and matched the largest halftime deficit overcome for a victory in franchise history.
If that seems a bit unusual to you, you’re not alone. The truth is that massive comebacks have been relatively commonplace throughout the NBA so far this season. There have already been seven instances this season in which teams have come all the way back from at least 20 points down to win a game (seven different teams have done it), which puts the league on pace to win 35 or 36 such games over the course of the full season. Five years ago, there were only 16 20-point comebacks throughout the league. 10 years ago, there were 19.
So, what’s causing the increased volatility this season? It’s still early, but it could have something to do with the fact that teams are attempting more three-pointers than ever before. Last season, six NBA teams averaged at least 30 three-point attempts per game; this season, that number has doubled. The same trend is evident on the opposite side of the spectrum. This season, only six NBA teams are attempting fewer than 25 treys per game. Last season, 11 teams fell in that category.
Now, the Warriors haven’t altered their long-range strategy considerably from a season ago. They’re attempting and making 0.1 and 0.6 more threes per game, respectively, than a season ago, and shooting 1.9 percent better from beyond the arc. However, in general, you can see how teams attempting more threes per game could increase the likelihood of huge deficits being erased. If one team gets hot while their opponent goes cold, a double-digit margin can be flipped within minutes.
So, how does this knowledge affect Golden State moving forward? Basically, as a constant reminder to play through the final buzzer. Whether a team is up or down by double digits this season, the game is not nearly as ‘over’ as it used to be. The Dubs are well aware of that, having already given and received that lesson this season.
Standout Spotlight: Stephen Curry
The week didn’t start well for Stephen Curry, but he sure did finish it off on a high note. After missing the victory over Orlando and totaling just nine points in the loss to the Celtics, Curry bounced back in a huge way with two dominant performances to close out the week. In the win over the Sixers, Curry scored 20 of his game-high 35 points in the third quarter, in which Golden State outscored Philadelphia 47-15. It was the 20th 20-point quarter of Curry’s career, and 12 of them have come in that third frame. Then, less than 24 hours later against the Nets, Curry accounted for season-highs with 39 points and 11 rebounds, in addition to seven assists and three steals.
“Steph causes so much chaos every game with those high drags, transition plays and then his energy off the ball and movement without the ball,” Steve Kerr said following the win over the Magic. “He creates a lot of defensive awareness from the other team and that opens up doors for everybody.”
You don’t have to look far to see the validity in Kerr’s assessment. The Warriors are currently outscoring opponents by 18.6 points per 100 possessions in which Curry is on the floor, which is the best individual net rating of any player in the league averaging at least 17 minutes per game. He’s scoring more than he did last season, while attempting 1.4 fewer shots per game, and yet he’s actually shooting well below his career three-point percentage. Given the success Curry and the Warriors have had despite his relative three-point struggles, it bodes well for the Dubs moving forward, as one would naturally expect that three-point percentage to progress to the mean as the sample size increases.
The Week Ahead:
The Warriors have an interesting week (schedule-wise) ahead of them. First, the Dubs will attempt to finish off their current road trip with three consecutive wins when they take on the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday, meaning they’ll have had three days in between games leading into that matchup. Following the conclusion of the road trip, Golden State will then return to the Bay Area for a brief homestand that begins with a rare home back-to-back. The Warriors will play host to the Chicago Bulls on Friday before renewing acquaintances with the visiting New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday. None of those opponents currently have a record above .500.
Till next week.