Another two road games down, another two wins. And thanks to their current nine-game win streak, including a perfect 5-0 record on their current road trip, the Golden State Warriors have already climbed up to the fourth seed in the Western Conference standings. So much for their slow start, huh?
It hasn’t been easy but now that the Warriors are healthy, they’ve shown just how lethal they can be on offense and how surprisingly sturdy they are on the defensive end. In Atlanta on Friday, it looked like Golden State’s streak would come to an end. But the Dubs regrouped from a 15-point fourth quarter deficit to beat the Hawks 101-100 on Andre Iguodala‘s buzzer-beating 3-pointer. Despite allowing 100 points, the Warriors’ defense held Atlanta to just nine points in the final six minutes of the game.
Sunday night in Washington, Stephen Curry and company were tied with the Wizards 58-58 at the half and it looked like Golden State’s legs were starting to get the best of them on the road trip. But then the Warriors spouted off a massive 30-5 run that put the game permanently out of reach. The exclamation point was an absolutely gorgeous (albeit accidental) alley-oop that put the exclamation mark on the run and Golden State’s status as a legitimate Western powerhouse.
That statement was not an exaggeration. Not only did it spark the run that put Washington away for good, but it was just one of many examples of how this team beats their opponents by making plays that few other players in the league can make. How Stephen Curry can make so many impossible 3-pointers over and sometimes through defenders is one thing, but that play served as a fitting notice that the ball just seems to be bouncing Golden State’s way right now.
A few weeks ago, the Warriors weren’t even in the top eight. Nine straight wins later and they’re leading the Pacific Division and post an absurd 18-3 record in games in which Andrew Bogut, Andre Iguodala and Steph Curry have been in the starting lineup. That’s a better winning percentage than any starting five in the NBA, in case you were wondering.
Now that the Dubs are winning games, Stephen Curry has to be at least on the verge of entering the MVP conversation. For what it’s worth, Kevin Durant is still my leading candidate, but Curry is putting up monster numbers made even more impressive by the aesthetically awesome ways he’s accumulating those stats. The Miami Heat got a taste of it a few days ago when Curry’s monster game went on a rampage through American Airlines Arena. With 36 points, 12 assists and four steals, which were all game highs in those three categories, Curry buried the Heat out of the pick and roll. He also had as many 3s as the entire Miami roster with eight.
But we’d be remiss to not mention David Lee and his incredible work in the post the past few weeks. Lee hasn’t always stood out this season and entering the year, there were talks about whether or not the Warriors should trade him after the Dubs’ playoff success with him mostly on the sidelines. But lately, Lee has made his case for another All-Star appearance loud and clear, averaging 27.5 points, 11 rebounds, three assists and one steal while shooting 66.7 percent from the floor in his first three games of 2014.
Defenses are having an incredibly hard time containing the Warriors’ potent offense, which is averaging 105.4 points per game during the nine-game win streak. With Curry and Lee working the pick and roll, defenses have to choose the lesser of about 17 evils. Curry’s hesitation move and subsequent open layup at the basket out of the pick and roll is almost as deadly as the threat of giving up an open (or even contested) 3-pointer. And that’s only one player in this five-cog machine.
Assuming the defenders are able to keep Curry from getting enough daylight to launch a 3 or attack the rim, they still have to worry about Lee rolling to the basket or hitting an open mid-range jumper out of a pick and pop. Lee making the shot isn’t the issue since he’s actually taking a low number of attempts from that area per NBA.com, but the threat of a big man who can shoot, dribble and pass makes defenses vulnerable to quick ball rotation, usually to an open shooter like Iguodala, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes or Draymond Green on the perimeter. Watch a couple plays of these highlights and you’ll quickly see Lee’s abilities as a passer to Thompson.
Most people mistake the Golden State Warriors for an offense-only team, but their defense should be highly touted with Iggy back and Bogut in the middle. The Warriors are a top 10 defense in terms of points allowed (98.9) and clean up the glass to close out good defensive possessions (evidenced by their 46.5 rebounds per game, second-most in the league). They hold teams to 43 percent from the field, which is the fourth best rate in the NBA.
Still not convinced? I don’t know why you wouldn’t be yet, but the Warriors’ defensive rating is 101.0, fourth best in the league. Golden State’s defensive rebounding percentage is 76.9, the best rate in the league. As for point differential, usually a pretty good indicator of a team’s playoff chances, the Warriors are seventh best in the league at +4.5.
It’s a long season and win streaks during the regular season don’t mean much once the playoffs roll around. But with this nine-game win streak, with the majority of those games coming on the road, the Golden State Warriors are positioning themselves to have home-court advantage for at least one playoff series. There’s still a lot of games to be played before we’ll know for sure, but as long as the Dubs continue to stay healthy there aren’t too many teams that can stop them.