The prevailing feeling in the locker room and from the coaching staff —from what I can gather during their interviews as I don't actually know these guys personally — is that close games are good for the team. Regardless of how they emerge victorious, a win in the National Basketball Association is hard to come by and worth treasuring despite the historic evidence that shows these aren't as easy as they make it seem. This team is winning and winning a bit differently, and that's become the talk surrounding the team more than anything else.
When asked about his team suffering from not only some physical but mental fatigue as well, interim head coach Luke Walton admitted that the Warriors were merely piecing together great quarters and halves at a time instead of enveloping the teams during entire games they were a month or a year ago.
"We have gotten away from, recently, playing four solid, hard quarters of basketball. We are putting together nice halves and finishing games nice and playing well when we have to, but we have gotten away from that overall great game of basketball."
How much of this is concerning?
There's a level of intensity held back that all players admit to reaching when that times comes. Every single team is now coming into Oracle Arena or going into their home court with the attitude that this is their Game 7. Kyle Lowry was bouncing up and down the floor, through three people at a time for an offensive rebound late in the fourth quarter. I somehow fail to see that same type of play against a Milwaukee Bucks in late-November.
"It does because everybody wants to beat you," said Draymond Green, who finished with a team-high nine rebounds. "It was already hard because you're the defending champion. So every game is tough because everyone wants to be the team that beats you. It's tougher and tougher each game."
Make no mistake. Green said that with a smile on his face the entire time. He treasures these moments, these fights, and the atmosphere. The Golden State Warriors will admit to that as well. Though the fatigue might start to set in at any time (Stephen Curry started the 4th quarter tonight for the first time in forever), the mental aspect of this might become too much not just for a team this historically great, but for anyone.
1. The talk of the town around here is the lack of defensive effort and crispness that was so evident and explosive last season and at times during their 12-game win streak. Some of it is regression as there has to be year in and year out changes in such a cohesive system. The rest is what I believe to simply be a symptom of the ability to turn on and off the switch with success, leading to it be left off as long as possible. I wouldn't worry too much until the lineups (why Ian Clark and Leandro Barbosa at the same time?) or why it extends into a month of lackadasical off-ball and screen-fighting rotations.
2. Not only is Draymond Green pushing the ball in transition the most glorious part of watching the Warriors but the transition movement of everyone in unison is a sight to behold. Klay Thompson loves setting backscreens for Steph as he sprints down the sideline with Green handling. Andre Iguodala is a savant at finding the open man on the wings and baseline as he handles. While that happens, Festus Ezeli has become a master at lurking on the baseline for an alley-oop slam. This team is beautiful in the mastery of flow.
3. Ian Clark is fun on offense. He has a nice handle that is functional to the basket off pump fakes and a beautiful jump shot. But that defense... He just about died on every screen with Leandro Barbosa. Perhaps that's a lineup worth taking out entirely.
4. If Steph wanted to run the offense and shoot purely push shot floaters and 3s off pick-and-rolls, he'd average an easy 40 per game. In other words, if he played like Reggie Jackson on the Detroit Pistons, he'd look even more ridiculous in the stat sheet. Instead, he's looking to set up Klay, Ezeli, Bogut consistently.
5. It's impossible to quantify a coaching staff but here's a shortcut, cheating way: see how they do against opponents after timeouts as well as their own offensive sets. The Warriors snuffed out two possessions ATOs, forcing shot clock violations. On the other side, they got a Klay Thompson layup and several open threes. It's not a foolproof way but they get insanely easy looks from Luke Walton and the rest of the coaching staff.