(Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images)
The Weekly Dish, Presented by Mountain Dew Kickstart
By Brian Witt
Since returning from the All-Star break, the Warriors have played as well as any team in the league.
For the week of Monday, Mar. 5 – Sunday, Mar. 11
Less than 20 games remain on the Warriors' regular season schedule, and they're playing as well as any team in the league right now.
By completing an undefeated road trip that featured wins over the Knicks, Wizards and Hawks, the Warriors improved to 49-14 on the season, still a half-game behind Houston for the top record in the NBA. That undefeated trip improved Golden State to 5-0 in games since the All-Star break, which ties them for the best record in the league over that span. It's the second-longest win streak for the Warriors following the All-Star break in franchise history, trailing only an eight-game win streak set back in 1992.
Why have the Dubs gotten off to such a strong start to the stretch run? It has a lot to do with the fact that they're putting themselves in position to win from the outset of their games. Steve Kerr inserted JaVale McGee into the starting lineup coming out of the break, and ever since then, the Warriors have been the best first quarter team in the league, outscoring the opposition by 29.5 points per 100 possessions in the opening frame. Combine that with the fact that Golden State is outscoring their opponents by 21.5 points per 100 possessions in the third quarter on the season to date, and it's easy to see why they've had so much success.
With one more victory throughout the remainder of the 2017-18 campaign, Golden State would secure a 50-win season for the fifth consecutive year. Prior to this current stretch, the Warriors had accumulated a total of only four 50-win seasons throughout their franchise history.
Nearly 45 percent of the Warriors' wins this season have come against the Eastern Conference, as the Dubs have thoroughly dominated their interconference matchups. They're now 22-3 against the East, and outside of a loss in Boston in mid-November, the Warriors have not lost a single road game to an Eastern Conference team this year. Golden State's 13-1 road record against the East is not only their highest road winning percentage against the East in franchise history, but is also just one victory short of tying the best interconference road record in Western Conference history, set by the 2007-08 Phoenix Suns, who went 14-1 against the East.
That final remaining road game against the East won't come until April 5th, when the Dubs travel to Indiana to take on the Pacers, after which Golden State will have only three games remaining on their regular season schedule. While one would imagine the Warriors will have clinched a playoff spot by then, homecourt advantage could still very much be up for grabs, so every game from here on out carries added significance.
Standout Spotlight: Andre Iguodala
While Golden State did complete an undefeated road trip, they were leaking oil at the end of it. But, thanks to an incredible defensive play by Andre Iguodala at the conclusion of Friday's game in Atlanta, the Dubs were able to eek out a victory over the Hawks.
"It was a helluva play," Kerr said of Iguodala's game-sealing steal. "That is an attacking defensive play. It was pretty impressive just to basically take the ball from Kent (Bazemore), and go down and finish the game. That was amazing."
Amazing, indeed. The fast break dunk that followed the steal provided the final two points of Iguodala's nine-point, five-rebound and six-assist output that night, and presented the most recent sign that the 14-year veteran is rounding into form for the stretch run. For the week, Iguodala averaged 10.7 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.3 blocks and 1.0 steals per game on 61.1 percent shooting from the field, 37.5 percent shooting from three-point range and 87.5 percent shooting from the free throw line.
"I'm OK. I'm getting there," Iguodala said of his physical health. "This is a weird trip for us. It's good that we got these wins. Tuesday will be a trap game. We have to be careful with that one as well. These were three tough games. We were really off as far as our bodies and sleeping."
As mentioned previously, the Warriors won't have to worry about too many weird travel schedules from here on out. That trap game that Iguodala referred to, however, should occupy Golden State's full attention.
The Week Ahead:
The trap game Iguodala spoke of is a 'trap' due to a couple of conditions: one being the opponent, and the other, the timing. Golden State opens up the week with a home game against the visiting Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday, who are currently tied for the worst record in the Eastern Conference, but pushed the Dubs to the final minutes of their previous encounter back on November 19. Following that game, the Warriors will then round out the week with three games against opponents with considerably better winning percentages. Golden State hosts San Antonio at Oracle Arena on Thursday, before heading out on a brief two-game road trip that will see them face the Trail Blazers and Timberwolves on Friday and Sunday, respectively. Each of those final three opponents is currently in playoff position in the West, and with a home-road back-to-back mixed in, the week ahead promises to be a challenging one.
Till next week.