Going into the All-Star break, the Golden State Warriors were in quite a slump. They had dropped six consecutive games and what looked like a sure playoff spot was rapidly slipping away from them. The Warriors returned strong, however, winning their first two games since the break.
The first was a win over the lowly Phoenix Suns, which was rather meaningless other than serving as an end to the streak. Their second victory, however, carried a lot more weight. On Friday, Feb 22, , the Warriors beat the San Antonio Spurs 107-101 in overtime, earning one of their biggest wins of the year. There were numerous points in the game when it looked like the Spurs were going to pull away, but the Warriors hung tough, erasing a 12-point deficit in the fourth quarter and rallying behind the excellent play and Jarrett Jack and David Lee. With the Spurs looking unstoppable lately, this win served as a notice to the rest of the league that the Warriors are an extremely talented team and there’s no one who they can’t beat in any one game.
Really, the Warriors have succeeded against the league’s best all season long. They’ve won games against the Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat and they’ve beaten their division rivals, the Los Angeles Clippers, three out of five times. The key to the Warriors’ success has generally been the relentlessness of their offense. They are loaded with players who can score. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson make for one one of the most dangerous backcourts in the league, while Lee can dominate in the post all game long. Usually, teams who compete with the best do so based on their tough defense. Not so with the Warriors. They can hang with anyone because the barrages of points they put up are often unstoppable.
Not to say they never play any defense. In the win against the Spurs, that was a key part of the victory. They managed to hold San Antonio to only .389 from the field, a huge surprise considering the Spurs have more quality shooters than any other team in the league. But while the defense has risen to the occasion from time to time, this is still a a team that succeeds mostly by putting points on the board. They are sixth in the NBA in points per game and only 25th in points allowed per game. Some of that relates to their quick pace and Lee has been better on defense that any point in his career, though. The defense isn’t great by any means, but it’s not quite as pathetic as it’s been in years past.
Beating the Spurs mattered because the Warriors weren’t just dropping in the standings; their respect was dropping, too. To the people who have doubted them all season long, their losing skid seemed like confirmation that this team wasn’t a real contender; that they had simply overachieved during the first half of the season and the situation would correct itself in the second half, leaving them on the outside looking in during the playoffs. This win proves that the Warriors will not be going away so easily.
To be sure, Golden State is a flawed team. Curry struggles in crunch time, often deferring to Jack to create shots. Additionally, the continued injury problems of Andrew Bogut have forced the Warriors to continue adjust to lineup changes and if they don’t have their set lineup come playoff time, it could certainly cause problems. Still, this is a hard-working team who can beat anyone. As long as they do enough work to make the playoffs, they won’t be an easy first-round opponent.