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The Weekly Dish, Presented by Mountain Dew Kickstart
by Brian Witt
The Warriors got a well-deserved break in the schedule, and took full advantage of it.
For the week of Monday, Nov. Dec. 18 – Sunday, Dec. 24
Golden State has played a grand total of 62 postseason games over the last three years. Add in the various international tournaments that have taken place over that time period – many of which numerous Warriors have participated in – and you could make the case that several Dubs have played the equivalent of four NBA seasons in the amount of time it takes to complete three.
So, when the Warriors saw only two games on their schedule last week, chances are there weren't many groans in the room.
The NBA season is a grind, and the Warriors are attempting to become just the fifth team in league history to make it to the Finals four years in a row. As such, when a team gets a break in the schedule, they'd be wise to take advantage of it, as we know it all evens out in the end. That's precisely what Golden State did last week, handling their business in victories over the Blazers and Mavericks despite being significantly shorthanded.
Neither Draymond Green nor Zaza Pachulia played in either of the wins last week, and Stephen Curry remains out with an ankle injury suffered two weeks ago. On the surface, those may appear to be insurmountable losses, but that hasn't been the case for the Dubs, who now find themselves in the midst of their longest winning streak of the season.
It helps, of course, to still be able to depend on all-world talents like Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson. Durant is playing his best ball of the season, averaging 33.8 points, 10.3 rebounds, 7.3 assists and 3.0 blocks per game over the last four. Meanwhile, Thompson has been as steady and dependable as ever, shooting 19-of-36 (.527) from three-point range over the last five games. Don't look now, but Thompson is currently on pace for a 51-47-88 season, shooting career-best percentages from the field, three-point range and the free throw line.
You can pretty much pencil in those two guys for around 50 combined points per game, and that's a big deal, especially considering who has been out of the lineup as of late. But because of those aforementioned injuries, the Warriors have been dependent on their depth to get them through this depleted stretch, and the reserves have delivered far beyond reasonable expectations.
Omri Casspi started at power forward in both games last week, and averaged a double-double. David West scored 19 points on 11 shot attempts, and is now shooting an absurd 66.9 percent from the field so far this season. Then there's Jordan Bell, a second round rookie who started in place of the reigning Defensive Player of the Year and did his best impression of Green, having a strong positive impact on both ends of the floor.
Stars performing at a high level, reserves stepping up when called upon, and – oh, let's not forget the Warriors' team defense, which easily ranks as the best in the league since the start of November. They've limited teams to just 98.6 points per 100 possessions for over a month and a half now, 3.3 fewer points than the next closest team.
The Warriors know what their end goal is. They know what it takes to get there. They're fairly banged up right now, but their strong play in the face of adversity has to be viewed as a promising sign, particularly considering that they won't always be without those currently out of the lineup. If they can play like this while shorthanded, it's a scary thought (for the rest of the league) what they might be capable of at full strength.
Standout Spotlight: Omri Casspi
For those unaware, today marks the seventh day of Hanukkah, so it's only fitting that the first Israeli-born player in NBA history gets acknowledged in this week's Spotlight.
Casspi is one of five players on Golden State's roster in their first year with the team, and you could make the case no new arrival has made as seamless of a transition as the nine-year NBA veteran.
"It's hard to integrate six or seven new players, but if it's three or four on a team that already has the continuity that we have, it's much easier," said Steve Kerr following the win over the Blazers. "The older guys just sort of lead them and help them along. They have all been really good and are fun to have on the team and they are all contributing."
Casspi contributed what is likely his best two-game stretch in a Warriors uniform last week, earning his fifth and sixth starts of the season and taking full advantage of the additional opportunity. First, Casspi recorded 11 points on six shots and a team-high nine rebounds in the win over Portland. Casspi then followed that up with 17 points and 11 boards against the Mavericks, both season-highs for the 17th double-double of his career.
When asked why he thinks Casspi has fit in so well so quickly, Kerr pointed to Casspi's penchant for knowing where to be and when to be there:
"He's a perfect fit for us because he is a great cutter," said Kerr after the victory over Dallas. "Always has wonderful timing on his cuts and he hits that little float shot after his cuts. It's not an easy shot to make, but he makes it consistently. He's in a great spot, because he's playing with a lot of great passers…I just feel like Omri fits our style and he's been really a fantastic player for us. We are lucky to have him."
The Week Ahead:
After playing two games in the last nine days, the Warriors' schedule ramps back up this week with four matchups before Christmas Eve. The weekly slate begins tonight in Los Angeles, when the Dubs will take on the Lakers in Golden State's final road game of 2017. Following that quick trip down south, the Warriors will return to the Bay Area for the remainder of the calendar year and finish the week off with three-straight home games. Golden State will host the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday, before completing a rare home back-to-back sequence against the Lakers and Nuggets on Friday and Saturday, respectively. Each of those teams beat the Warriors last season (Memphis did earlier this season, as well), so Golden State knows they'll have their hands full if they hope to keep this current hot streak going.
Till next week.