(Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images)
The Weekly Dish, Presented by Mountain Dew Kickstart
By Brian Witt
The Warriors are returning to form heading into the All-Star break, and the bench is a big reason why.
For the week of Monday, Feb. 12 – Sunday, Feb. 18
Golden State's week – and each of the three games that comprised it – got off to a precarious start, but they closed it out in a manner that may indicate they've emerged successfully from a relative rough patch. After dropping a game to the Thunder to constitute their first set of back-to-back losses this season, the Dubs bounced back with consecutive home victories over the Mavericks and Spurs, and their bench was a big reason why.
In the 10 games that preceded that Texas two-step, the Warriors' bench was not at the top of their game. They got outscored by 3.7 points per 100 possessions over that stretch, which was well below the league average. So perhaps it's no surprise that the Warriors looked more like themselves after the bench got back to their productive ways. In those two victories over the Mavs and Spurs, Golden State's bench outscored the opposition by 34.3 points per 100 possessions. Talk about a turnaround.
Those two victories not only got the Dubs back on track, but also moved them past the two-thirds mark of the regular season, with the All-Star break rapidly approaching. Historically, though, those wins carried even greater significance, as they represented the 249th and 250th regular season victories of Steve Kerr's coaching career.
It took Kerr 302 games to accomplish the feat, which is the fastest in NBA history and 44 fewer games than Phil Jackson. More to the point: Kerr took the fewest games to reach 250 wins of any coach ever in the four major American professional sports leagues.
"It just means that I inherited a hell of a team with an amazing, talented group of players," Kerr reflected.
One of those amazing, talented players credits Kerr for his ability to establish a winning culture:
"It's been an amazing three-and-a-half years and hopefully more to come," said Stephen Curry following the win over the Spurs. "It's a lot about him setting the identity and the culture around our team and just being a great people guy. There's probably a better term for that. He just knows how to relate to each and every one of us players and his coaching staff and you're building that ultimate trust throughout the organization.
Every team – no matter how talented or successful – is going to encounter some adversity over the course of an 82-game regular season, not to mention the playoffs for those teams lucky enough to make them. While the players are ultimately the ones putting the ball in the basket, there's no denying that this is a team that trusts one another, and Kerr deserves a huge hunk of credit for ingraining that trust within his roster.
Standout Spotlight: David West
If we're highlighting the play of the bench, it's high time David West gets the Spotlight. What he's done this season is absolutely incredible for a 15-year NBA veteran.
Let's just start with his stat line from last week: 10.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.0 block and 1.0 steal in 16.0 minutes per contest. The quantity looks good. The quality? Even better.
West attempted 17 shots last week. He made 14 of them. For those keeping track at home, that's a field goal percentage of 82.4 percent. That's just bonkers for a guy who's launching multiple jumpers from the top of the key per game.
Now you might say, it's only three games. That's too small of a sample size to take anything meaningful from. Well, how about 52 games?
That's the number of games West has played in this season, third-most on the team behind Klay Thompson (55) and Nick Young (52). Care to take a guess what his shooting percentage is on the season?
61.7 percent. That is not a typo.
If you extrapolate West's season averages to 36 minutes of playing time, he's currently averaging 19.0 points per 36 minutes of game action. That's not only the fourth-highest rate on the team; it's also the fourth-highest rate of his career. West, who turns 38 in August, has never averaged more than 19.6 points per 36 minutes in his career.
That was during the 2007-08 NBA season. As in, a full decade ago.
The Week Ahead:
Only two games lie between the Warriors and the long-awaited All-Star break. They'll play the first of those two tonight at home against the Suns, in what will be their first of four matchups with Phoenix throughout the remainder of the season. After that, the Dubs will make the trip up to Portland to face the Trail Blazers on Wednesday night. Golden State has already clinched a winning record on the season, but with just a half-game separating them and the Rockets at the top of the Western Conference standings, you can be sure the Warriors would love to close out the unofficial first half of the season with a bang.
Till next week.