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The Warriors create trap games like none other

Opponents' win percentages drop by 10% on the eve of their matches with the Warriors.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Who's the hardest team to play in the NBA on any given night? Okay, besides the Warriors. Well, by percentages that'd be the San Antonio Spurs.

And if you could coalesce the abstract concept of "the team you're playing one game before you play the Warriors" and manifest that into a 15-man unit, then that team would be roughly the third toughest outing in the NBA.

In short, teams preparing to face the Warriors lose an abnormally high amount of games right before facing the champs. Is it because they've looked too far ahead on the schedule?

By the numbers, the Cleveland Cavaliers win games at a slightly better rate, 67%, than the lucky "trap" team (eg, the team before the big showdown against the undefeated champions), who win at a rate of 65%. Before the Boston Celtics' tough victory over the "trap" team (the Chicago Bulls), Warrior "trap" teams were winning at a 68% clip, good for third best in the Association.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens specifically acknowledged the mental fortitude his team displayed; the game within (and encompassing and overshadowing) the game, saying, "It's okay to look [forward to the Warriors] now. I thought they did a good job of looking at the task at hand."

Yes, the Warriors are like the Beatles on a world tour, and the other teams that get to serve as the lesser-known opening band, so to speak, are benefitting from the Fab Fifteen's long shadow. The Warriors' past opponents (plus the Celtics, since they affected the original calculation for win percentage against the precursor "trap" team) are 171 - 195, for a 47% win rate. In their trap teams, that falls over 10% to a rate of 35%.

There is, admittedly, an outlier in this data, but it only exacerbates the difference. Omitting the putrid Philadelphia Lakers from both ledgers (opponent W/L overall and opponent W/L in "trap" games) bolsters the Warriors' opponents' win rates to 49%, and their win percentage versus trap teams to 36%, or a -13% difference.

So, the Warrior "trap" teams are winning like approximately the third best team in the league. But who are these teams? Well, there's the Charlotte Hornets, currently second place in their conference; the ever-steady Bulls; and the talented ongoing high school drama-filled Los Angeles Clippers. Then there's the New York Knicks, the Phoenix Suns, the Portland Trailblazers, and the resurgent the Detroit Pistons. After that? Well, there's the Denver Nuggets, Sacramento Kings. New Orleans Pelicans... The Milwaukee Bucks... Minnesota Timberwolves... Brooklyn Nets...

Yes, this group of Warrior "trap" teams stumble to a combined 135 - 164 record, good for 45%. Yet they combine to play (and win) like the third best team in the league thanks in this very specific situation to playing the fifth easiest opponent to play in the league: a team focused on its looming match with the Golden State Warriors.

Again, so you don't have to scroll up, those teams listed above went from winning 45% (in 299 games) of the time to 65% (in 23 games) of the time. All because the opponents wanted to think ahead a bit.

While Stephen Curry makes a habit of bending space-time, it seems the Warriors as a unit now function almost like an Alcubierre drive, warping the very fabric of the league around them through sheer proximity. The Warriors are coming to town later this week? Better start running watching tape now. They've landed and we're playing tomorrow? Gotta run an extra set in shoot around, just to prepare for Draymond. Whoops, we just lost to the 5 - 16 Pelicans.

The margin of error for winning a game is slim in the NBA. Factor in the fact that there are tangible patterns in the records of the teams the Warriors have played that belies the fact that extra preparation (and mental sharpness) is devoted to them each and every night by the 29 other NBA teams, and 23 in a row wins in a row borders on the unbelievable. The Warriors haven't just beaten 23 NBA teams in a row. They've beaten 23 NBA teams, each one with increasing fervor to knock them down.

There has not been a bigger target on an NBA team in the new millennium than the one that is now being repainted onto the Warriors' backs. Stephen Curry has shut the world up when it comes to attempting to make predictions and forecast what will happen regarding his own performance or his team's. The only thing left to do now is to watch what happens next.

And we all know that 28 other NBA teams will be doing the same thing tomorrow.

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