Last night in Charlotte, the Warriors should have had to put up a bigger fight. Sure, the Hornets are not the best team in the East - they are a respectable 10-7 which is good enough for the current 7th seed in a very balanced Eastern Conference. They have young, athletic players who can score. Kemba Walker continues to prove that he was not a college fluke and that he can score at the pro level. They have NBA-caliber players. This team can give any team a run for their money any night of the week..
... except when they play the Warriors. As a fan who watched on Wednesday night, did you ever feel like the game was out of control? The most exciting moments of the night came from it being Del Curry night, which gave Steph a chance to use the third quarter as an opportunity to show off for his father. The team cruised to a 116-99 victory, and most of the time, it felt like Golden State was up by forty. How is it becoming so easy for them to win?
Reason #1: Even when they are bad, they are good
The turnovers are not fun to watch. They are the elephant in the room every night, and though the wins keep coming, so do the turnovers. Is this a function of bad coaching (#FireWalton)? I don't believe so, as the Warriors turned over the ball quite a lot last year too. Sure, the number last night was only 18, but after sequences in the third quarter where they turned the ball over three out of five possessions, it felt like the team should have had 30. They are currently 28th in the league with 16.1 turnovers a game.
Most of the symptoms of this are from the aggressive offensive system they run. They are always in third and fourth gear and go for the home run or spot on pass, and their aggressiveness nets great shots and high scoring to go along with bad passes and deflections to the opponent.
As a fan (and probably even for the coaching staff), you continue to live with this. It continues to be high risk and high reward, and very visually appealing I might add. The Hornets simply couldn't capitalize on most of the giveaways as they came on dead-ball situations. This is not always the case as we saw in past games like the Clippers where turnovers lead to layups. It seems to be obvious -- you gotta keep letting the Warriors be the Warriors, even with the mistakes.
Reason #2: The defense continues to shut teams down
Nightly, the Warriors still continue to play top-tier defense. They have shown they can shut down high-powered offenses by forcing bad shots and crowding penetrators. They can play big on the inside, as well as feature some of the best wing defenders in the league. Teams like the Hornets don't have a counter to the aggressive defense in the lanes and are forced to push the ball outside and hoist up long jumpers. Combine this with the fatigue from running after Golden State all night to keep up, and teams shoot themselves in the foot.
The Hornets shot under 40% last night (29% from three) and looked exhausted all night long. They hold teams to roughly 46% shooting nightly, good enough for 4th in the league. Kemba Walker had a horrible night shooting, and you have to think this came from being defended by quick bodies all night who wouldn't let him drive. Also, after chasing around Steph all night (and getting no help from his defense) he looked frustrated. The Hornets were without their top post presence in Al Jefferson to help balance out their scoring, but the supporting cast besides Walker and Nicolas Batum was neutralized. The Warriors are giving up more points to opponents this year (14th in the league in points against), but most of these points are coming in garbage time as the stars sit on the bench.
Reason #3: Even when the games are not as important, the Warriors still want it more than you
Draymond Green has one gear: all out. He gets triple-doubles in filler games against second-tier opponents. He doesn't take a night off. He finds ways to contribute even though his outside shooting and free throws have been off in the last few games. He plays amazing defense and he finds his way to most every loose ball.
Steph Curry has reached a new level with his scoring this year, from both in the paint and behind the arc. He scores in the clutch, he shoots daggers.He is having more fun than you have ever had playing basketball in your life.
But the team is not about just about the stars. Guys like Leandro Barbosa, Andre Iguodala and Andrew Bogut have found basketball heaven for an NBA veteran -- contribute on a team doing the small things while you watch your young superstars help get you a ring. The front office put together savvy players who have a high basketball IQ who run you off the floor.
Basically, if you compare the Warriors roster to the Hornets roster, the Hornets are the perfect example of potential. They have high draft picks with big names who have never panned out. They are a collection of potential, just like many NBA teams who are still looking to find the answers to the puzzle. The Warriors are a puzzle solved. They fit together, they work together and they utilize each others strengths. The Warriors will continue to win because they don't have the same lapses and growing pains that you see other teams have.
Reason #4: They know when to turn on and when to turn off for the long run
Steph didn't play another 4th quarter last night. Sure, he had 40 by the end of the 3rd, but the team wasn't up by 40. Luke Walton has given in to watching his second team struggle through 4th quarters while saving his stars for the long run. Golden State has been strong where it matters this year -- having some of their best moments come in the 3rd quarter after they adjust at the half and put teams away. They are strategic, and even when opponents make runs they seem to always have the answer.Curry and Green in interviews this year have said this team simply has confidence. They team knows when to push, yet have visually been a bit more relaxed this year yielding more easy baskets. They have not been "soft" as much as they have been a bit smarter about when to push the petal to the ground.
• I had read that the Charlotte broadcast team was a fun one to listen to -- a three person team with Dell Curry Eric Collins and a rarity, Stephanie Ready the first female full-time broadcaster in NBA history. I was not let down, the broadcast team was fun and insightful. More teams should consider a female in the booth, provided a great wrinkle and made the game feel different.
• Charlotte will be an even more dangerous team when Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Al Jefferson return. I get sad when we can't face teams at their 100% roster and don't see the full challenge.
• How do you take care of your team during a 7-game road trip? Continue to sit your starters in the 4th and get scoring and time from all thirteen on your roster.
• Curry and Green - both +19 on the plus-minus last night.
• Warriors didn't have one player outside of Curry and Klay who scored in double-digits last night. Curry doesn't have to put up 40 if his teammates pick up the load.
The Warrior Wonder for Wednesday night? Steph Curry and his 40 points. WHO ELSE WOULD IT BE?!
Two days to travel to Drake's world when they play the Raptors in Toronto Saturday night. The rest will help, but Toronto will be ready for the rematch.