The Warriors have struggled to find a groove recently, going W-L-W-L in the last 4 games and failing to win more than two straight games since the four game win streak nearly a month ago, when Andre Iguodala, Jermaine O'Neal and Ognjen Kuzmic were still healthy. That win streak was stopped the night after Stephen Curry got a concussion against the Jazz, and the Warriors have failed to have a fully healthy team since then. Without a healthy lineup, the team has not been able to consistently play good defense, as the team has been dropping in defensive ranks. After only giving up over 100 points three times in the first 11 games, the team has allowed teams to top the century mark in nine of the last 13 games.
This inconsistency on defense has been followed by the offense. While players and coaches have been consistently quoted as saying "I never worry about offense because we have a team that can score" the team has struggled during this last stretch. Shown below is a graph charting the Warriors 3 pt shooting as a team, as well as whether they won the game. During that four game winning streak, the Warriors as a team shot over 42% from three in every game, including three games over 50%. While the Warriors have had several games shooting 40% from three as a team, these have not consistently resulted in victories, as they have gone 4-4 in those games.
I instead looked at Curry and Thompson's combined three pointing percentage, as these players are most important to the offense from behind the arc. One would assume that it is more important for the team that they shoot well from three than the team as a whole, and this suspicion appears to be correct. The Warriors have won 11 of the 13 games that the Splash Brothers have shot better than 40%, opposed to only 2 of the 11 games that Curry and Thompson have shot 40% or below in. Those 2 victories were against Philadelphia and Utah, two teams the Warriors should beat regardless. It is important to note however, that 3 of the games that the Warriors have lost were without Curry, meaning that the graph displays only Thompson's shooting percentage, which was a combined 32% in those three games. These games are games 6, 12 and 13.
The result of these findings is that the Curry and Thompson's three's are very important for the Warriors success. When teams limit them from behind the arc, the offense tends to struggle and the Warriors have a hard time compensating, This is what we have seen in the two games vs Houston, where they have held the Warriors and Splash Brothers to their two lowest 3 pt percentages of the year. However, last night the team stayed competitive without the three point shot, and when Andre Iguodala comes back this dependence should change.
So how has the inconsistent three point shooting affected Curry and Thompsons run at the three point shooting record? Despite the fluctuating percentages, the pair has actually stayed on a relatively consistent pace for the record. This is due to an increase in three point attempts, from 13 a game in the first 11 games of the season, to 16 a game in the last 13. This is especially true recently, where the Splash Brothers shot 19 combined attempts in 5 straight games and had back to back games of 28 and 20 attempts.
This increase in attempts may be due to the tendency to get off to slow starts. The Warriors have been trailing after the first quarter in 8 of the last 9 games, and when you are behind, you tend to shoot more threes to catchup. This increase in attempts has led to is a decrease in overall percentage. During the first installation of this piece, The Chase for 272- Stephen Curry and Klay Thompsons run at the new 3 point record, Klay Thompson was shooting 51% from three, which has now dropped to 44%. Curry has also seen a percentage drop, from 45% down to just under 42%.
So what are the implications of these numbers? It appears that with the absence of Andre Iguodala, the three point shooting of the Splash Brothers has been more important than ever. The team seems to have recognized this, as they are each taking more threes now then they were before Iguodala got hurt, which has led to a decline in efficiency. This is somewhat concerning for the team, as teams like the Rockets have shown it is possible to make Curry and Thompson struggle from behind the arc. This may be contributing the the David Lee post ups that we all complain about so much; the team is looking for another way to find offense. While Mark Jackson may preach to the media about this teams offensive ability, without Iguodala, the team has become very dependent on three point shooting. Sometimes the shots just don't fall, even if you are the best shooting backcourt in NBA history. Andre Iguodala gives this team another dynamic that it currently doesn't have, and the team may need him more than we think they do.
Thanks for reading, comments and suggestions are always welcome! Heres a link to the excel file containing all the data and charts used, if anyones interested in messing around with the data.