(Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images)
The Weekly Dish, Presented by Mountain Dew Kickstart
by Brian Witt
As the Warriors prepare to close out 2017, they're right where they want to be.
For the week of Tuesday, Dec. 26 – Sunday, Dec. 31
Record: 4-1*(*including Christmas Day)
As we enter the final week of 2017, it's only natural for people to ponder their potential New Year's resolutions. For some, perhaps it's a goal to be more physically active and to eat healthier. For others, maybe a commitment to try new things. But for those of you in search of better balance in your lives, might I suggest taking a page from the Golden State Warriors? After all, they're about as balanced as it gets right now.
Coming off their 99-92 victory over the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers on Christmas Day, the Warriors are right where they want to be. Their season-long 11-game winning streak may have been snapped with a loss to the Nuggets just two days prior to their win over the Cavs, but Golden State now possesses the best record in the NBA at 27-7.
How have they gotten there? By being the best and simultaneously most balanced team in the league.
Let's start on the offensive end. In relative terms, the Warriors are actually struggling a bit offensively right now. They've been held under 100 points in three of their last four games, but have still managed to go 2-1 in those contests. Prior to last week, the Dubs had been held under 100 points just three times all season. Obviously, Stephen Curry's ongoing absence due to an ankle sprain has plenty to do with it, but depending on how you look at it, there are two very positive takeaways for the Warriors from that fact.
First, it goes to show how potent the Warriors are offensively when at full strength. Despite their recent struggles, Golden State still ranks second in the NBA behind Houston in offensive rating, averaging 112.2 points per 100 possessions.
Second, and perhaps more importantly, it goes to show how well the Warriors have been playing defensively as of late.
Christmas Day marked the third time in four games and the seventh instance in Golden State's last 11 games that they held their opponent to 98 points or less. When you're playing defense like that, you don't need to be as high-powered on offense. This recent stretch has been the continuation of a defensive resurgence that has gone on for almost two months now, as the Dubs have posted a defensive rating of 98.4 since the beginning of November, allowing at least 3.2 fewer points per 100 possessions than any other team in the league over that span. After an uncharacteristic start to the season on the defensive end, Golden State has been practically an entirely different defensive team ever since, and they now lead the league in both defensive (100.8) and net (plus-11.4) rating on the season as a whole.
So, best record in the league. Second-best offense, best defense and best net rating. Oh, and they also shoot the highest percentage from the field, while holding their opponents to the worst field goal percentage in the NBA. Simply put, it's tough to be better and more balanced than that.
Standout Spotlight: Draymond Green
If the Warriors are playing well defensively, chances are, Draymond Green is probably at or near the center of it. The reigning Defensive Player of the Year recently returned from a four-game absence due to a shoulder injury, and as we've come to know over the last several years, he plays his best when the lights are brightest.
Such was the case on Christmas Day, when Green was front and center throughout a gritty, hard fought victory over the Warriors' biggest rival. Green stuffed the stat sheet with 12 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists, two steals, two three-pointers and a block, recording his 20th career triple-double and tying Tom Gola's franchise record in the process. In doing so, he became the sixth player in NBA history to record a triple-double on Christmas Day, joining the likes of Russell Westbrook, LeBron James, Billy Cunningham, John Havlicek and Oscar Robertson as the only players to accomplish the feat.
The Warriors are obviously a better team with Green healthy, but his absence wasn't a purely bad thing. His shoulder injury (as well as the litany of other injuries that have recently been ailing the Dubs) opened up more minutes for some of the younger players on the roster, namely rookie Jordan Bell.
It would be entirely unfair to expect a rookie second round pick to step in and fill Green's shoes, but boy did Bell do his best impression. And now, with Green healthy and Bell's additional experience and resulting confidence, Steve Kerr has a new frontcourt option to deploy, if he so chooses. Green and Bell started at power forward and center in the win over the Cavs, and that duo has now played 123 minutes together so far this season. In those 123 minutes, Golden State has outscored their opponents by 28.0 points per 100 possessions, with offensive and defensive ratings of 113.9 and 85.9, respectively. Essentially, the Warriors have been better with Green and Bell on the court together than Golden State has been on the cumulative season as a whole.
Finding Draymond Green in the second round was one of the biggest draft steals of the last decade. If one Draymond-like player is good, two is that much better.
The Week Ahead:
The Warriors will ring in the New Year with three-straight home games in the week ahead to close out 2017. First up, the Dubs will welcome the Utah Jazz to Oracle Arena on Wednesday night for the first meeting between the two teams since Golden State swept Utah out of the 2017 Western Conference Semifinals. After that, the Warriors will play their final two games of the calendar year when they host the Charlotte Hornets and Memphis Grizzlies for a home back-to-back set on Friday and Saturday, respectively.
2017 has been one heck of a year for the Warriors and Dub Nation. They'd both love nothing more than to close it out with a few more home wins.
Till next week.