We analyze the Golden State Warriors in terms of segments now. No longer do we nor should we fret over the game-by-game adjustments and improvements. It's much more of a big picture team than ever before. Like the San Antonio Spurs, the regular season is merely an elongated tune-up for the games that truly matter. Granted, the number one seed matters but the process remains much more important. The results will come.
On Wednesday night, the Warriors started slow and looked every bit of a team that just arrived home from a two-week road trip through the entire Central Eastern North America. They sputtered and stuttered on offense even though open shots were found after each and every pass. Stephen Curry had two points after the first quarter and even seemed to overpass at times. Why?
After the game, Curry's hedged slightly on Draymond Green's comment that the Warriors had relied on him too much, saying it wasn't until the Boston Celtics game that they forced him the ball late when others were open.
Curry's response when asked if he was overpassing tonight? "We don't play that one on one stuff."
As much as everyone anoints Curry as the assassin superstar, along the likes of the great snipers of old, his mindset resembles one of the most criticized crunch-time players ever, LeBron James. No matter the situation, Curry will make the right play. And tonight, even when the team looked like they needed him to dribble around and jack up 3s, he passed and passed and passed. It remained the right play and the right style for these Warriors.
Then Klay Thompson stepped up in a blistering third quarter. Andrew Bogut took nary a shot but was a team-high +42 in his minutes while playing his best defensive basketball of the season. Draymond Green triple-doubled in a star supporting role while the bench players did their best not to give up too much of the lead. Quite honestly, it was the performance that mirrored those of last season. The Warriors relied on Steph's ability to get guys open but the defense would suffocate opposing teams while Thompson got hot and the bench smoothed out everything else. It was a vintage performance for a team now used to big-time responses.
As for that one-on-one stuff that Curry said they didn't play? Let's finish up that Steph quote. "Unless it's Klay in the third quarter."
1. Draymond Green has had Andre Iguodala and Andrew Bogut as his defensive mentors. Can you tell? His innate instincts are off the charts as is but his recognition especially as a weak-side helper have exponentially exceeded all expectations. Twice he broke up PNRs with steals and blew up all kinds of lobs that ended up with the ball hitting the side of the backboard resulting in Phoenix turnovers. His ability to switch also crushed the Phoenix offense, leading to tons of late shot clock clanks.
2. Brandon Rush made three open 3s to start the game. He can do that as well as Harrison Barnes. Unlike Barnes though, Rush can't do much of anything else a an average rate.
3. I asked Luke Walton about his benching of Marreese Speights in non-garbage time. Walton responded by saying that playing Rush as a smallball power forward against bench units because it was more a matchup-based sub than the death of the two big-men lineup. For now, it sound like Festus Ezeli - Speights lineups will still alive. Harrison Barnes, hurry back.
4. Speaking of Ezeli, who is having quite the breakout season, had another solid game. However, despite playing better than Bogut this season, there are still moments the game looks too fast for him. Early in the second quarter, Ezeli got the ball at the free-throw line extended and spun around two times before trying to post up and flinging a hook shot that went off the rim. Where Bogut would have stayed calm and delivered a pass to an open cutting Leandro Barbosa, Ezeli missed him because he was so worried about everything else. Once the game slows and he gets a better feel, this should become the next step.
5. The Suns look like they gave up on Jeff Hornacek and I don't think Hornacek cares at this point. He kept Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight late in a blowout. And the other thing? He keeps calling plays from the backcourt, bringing the shot clock to 16-18 seconds before running a play. And the play itself? Just simple four-up action. It shouldn't be this hard.
6. As for the Milwaukee Bucks coming in on Friday after breaking the Warriors' streak?
Steph. "It was a nice celebration. We remember that stuff."