The San Antonio Spurs are consistently excellent. There are rarely games in which they self-implode, turn the ball over 20 times, or show a total lack of focus on the defensive end to a bottom-feeder team. That can be attributed to Gregg Popovich's system, years of drilling the same systemic ideals and having players like Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili who create the perfect developmental atmosphere.
The Golden State Warriors are not the Spurs. People that aren't Spurs fans can concur, to an extent, that the Spurs are "boring". I'm not one of these people but I understand it. Not because they play a slow, defense-based style (at least not in the last half decade) but because they win the same way, every single day of every single year. The Warriors, on the other hand, are prone to games in which they'll play terrible halves and lose to the Charlotte Bobcats. Or others where they forget to defend, turn the ball over every other possession and lose to a half-squaded Spurs team.
Volatility and injuries might go hand-in-hand. Andre Iguodala and Stephen Curry's absence have tilted the numbers towards what appears to be a slightly above-average team in the Western Conference. On Thursday night in Miami, the varied talents of this young team tilted upwards, into one that resembled somewhat of a title contender.
The David Lee-Curry pick-and-pop worked to perfection. Lee got the mismatch post-ups he needed to get this game going, against the likes of Michael Beasley and Shane Battier. It helped immensely that Curry came out hot, making the first three threes he attempted and forcing the Heat to shamelessly chase around the Warrior ball-handler with not one but two defenders. It left Lee wide open on the pop pass and that sequentially opened up the passes to the wings and corners.
When the Dubs weren't busy bogging the always humming flow offense with post ups, the Iguodala-Curry-Lee combo shredded the Heat defense that gambled even more than usual. Coach Erik Spoelstra rarely sent a third defender to take away Lee's jumper, daring him to shoot, and paid the price when Lee either nailed the shot or drove to finish and pass. It was an All-Star performance that garnered him White Chris Webber nicknames of last season.
The Warriors will remain this way, though, for better and worse. Let's not mistaken the #FullSquad moniker with the consistency it takes to remain in the upper echelon of teams in the Western Conference. When the W's play in this frenzied manner, they're the best team in the Western Conference. The Warriors shot 15-29 from distance (with two of the misses end of quarter heaves) and on another day, maybe they miss two or three more and LeBron goes LeBron in crunch mode and they lose. Then I start writing about moral victories, processes over results and the other myriad of textual filler.
On a regression-leveled playing field, they're good enough to consistently play like the third-best team behind the Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder. But the Spurs are "boring" because they're always so great. The Warriors tease us with these performances, and we can only hope sustainability is a feasible trait.
This was difficult between Curry and Lee but the reason why Lee remains open at the free-throw line extended is because two guys are falling over themselves trying not to allow another quick-draw trey.
3. Curry got the ball on the right side three-point line with Dwyane Wade hounding his shooting hand. With the shot clock running down, Curry flicked his wrist upwards with his back still slouched in a triple-threat position, barely registering movement on an infrared system. Yeah, that's unguardable.
2. Another pick-and-pop with Lee. Usually, Curry clears to the corner for a cross-court pass but in this instance he cut straight to the basket, leaving a preoccupied Norris Cole backdoored and received a perfect bounce pass from Lee on the drive for a layup.
1. Iguodala fastbreak between-the-legs pass to Curry who stutter-stepped at the three-point line before dribbling down to the baseline, put on another juke on LeBron James and rainbow-arced a jumper into the net for two. Ridiculous. Also, unguardable.
Observations and leftovers:
1. The bench lineup of Toney Douglas, Kent Bazemore, Marreese Speights, Harrison Barnes, and Draymond Green played two minutes to start the second quarter. They went a combined (-8). Cool, kewl, neat, scotch, afbebgeiubgiwubgege.
2. Andrew Bogut played a bit over 17 minutes tonight and zero in the fourth quarter. The Miami lineup plays really small (with Chris Anderson playing sparse minutes off the bench) so there's no technical need for Bogut. It's, however, a testament to the notion that Jackson doesn't trust or need Bogut on offense. Yet. Roy Hibbert torches the Heat and no one else simply because he can make hook shots with either hand. On the surface, it's a good night of rest and a W for Bogut and Jackson, but the lack of an offensive game does appear to hinder his minutes. It might not matter if Lee plays this well on offense the rest of the way.
3. Everyone knows about the post-ups now. And everyone hates it. It's the main cause of the lack of ball movement and turnovers. Most of the time, Jackson looks to exploit opposing shooting guards trying to check Klay Thompson or Barnes. It doesn't work consistently because neither guy has consistent court vision. It's almost more effective if they could post up Iguodala (less movement for his still balky hamstring) and let his vision take over. Spacing Thompson (shooting), Green (shooting), and Barnes (slashing) while keeping an excellent passer on the block is another look the Warriors could use.
4. Barnes played better tonight. Forced a turnover on LeBron and drove aggressively to the basket several times. I will remain the only person that refrains from hating on him. I'm not sure why. He just seems like he cares a lot (and works very hard) and is struggling like many young sophomores in the toughest basketball league in the world. I'm soft that way, I guess.