OAKLAND, Calif. — The Golden State Warriors took another step in the right direction in a 115-102 win on Saturday night against the young and scrappy Minnesota TimberWolves.
Last season, the Warriors were hell bent on making a statement against every team they faced. However the 2016-17 Warriors have a renewed focus, one that’s centered on the overall process itself.
Head coach Steve Kerr knows that his squad is no stranger to playoff basketball.
“We felt what the games are like in the playoffs and so you try to prepare for all of that in the regular season,” Kerr said after the Warriors 115-102 victory over the T-Wolves on Saturday night. “Try and win the game, but you focus on the things that you know you have to get better at.”
Life without Draymond Green
The Warriors were presented with a tough challenge: Win without Draymond Green, who leads the team in rebounding, assists, blocks and steals.
Aside from his communication and defensive prowess, the Dubs missed a key facilitator in Green. Stephen Curry noted that the team is used to having Green’s playmaking ability at the top of the key which helps ball movement from side to side.
“Obviously, with him out, we had to figure out another way to get the ball moving and not get into too much iso early,” said Curry.
The Warriors’ ball movement remained stagnate until Javale McGee entered the game late in the second quarter.
JaVale McGee’s impact
There is one thing that can’t be denied about McGee, he has the ability to be an immediate game changer. “Once he steps on the floor he makes an instant impact and you can feel it,” Curry said of the nine-year NBA veteran.
McGee brings everything to the Warriors that centers Zaza Pachuila and Anderson Varejao do not. His athleticism, length and minimal threat of scoring the basketball gives the already offensive Golden State Warriors another weapon in their arsenal.
While Pachuila is a more cerebral player who can facilitate from the elbow extended, he seems to be allergic to the basketball inside the paint. McGee, however, places additional pressure on the defense as an inside threat which often leads to open shooters on the weak side, thus opening up the floor for Golden State.
The Warriors are on their way to becoming one the most efficient offensive teams in NBA history, averaging an NBA high 118.4 points per game on 50.6 percent shooting so far this season.
Kevon Looney effective in his first start
The offense purred without Draymond Green, but it was the defense that was going to be under the microscope as the back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year candidate sat with a sprained ankle. Kerr gave the nod to Kevon Looney, who made his first NBA start against a tough opponent in Karl-Anthony Towns.
“I thought Looney was great. Gave us the minutes we wanted, excellent defense,” said Kerr after the game. “He stays high with his hands and he doesn’t bite on pump fakes. He just does a good, solid job out there.”
Karl-Anthony Towns is an extremely skilled big man. His combined skill of footwork off the pivot and ability to shoot from the outside puts tremendous pressure on the defender. If you bite on his ball fakes, then he will absolutely eat you alive. As Kerr mentioned, Looney did a fantastic job of staying on his feet and making Towns shoot difficult contested shots.
We are seeing the Warriors get more and more comfortable with every game played. They are slowly figuring out how to win with their given personnel. As the season progresses, the strength of Golden State’s numbers are progressing right along with it.
- Golden State improved to 7-0 this season when Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson each score at least 20 points in the same game.
- Kevin Durant scored 28 points along with 10 rebounds, five assists and a career-high six blocks, becoming the first player in franchise history to record at least 25 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and five blocks in a game (since blocks were first recorded in 1973-74).
- Draymond Green missed just the eighth regular-season game of his career.
- The Warriors assisted on 25 of 45 field goals, which snapped a streak of 10-straight games with at least 30 assists (which tied for the second-longest such streak in NBA history).
- Golden State hit 45-of-81 (.556) from the field, the team’s league-high 10th game shooting 50 percent or better this season.