Defense, like much of basketball, is a nuanced art. Some of it is raw talent and athleticism, but as Andre Iguodala said in his post game interview, “the thing about defense is you have to ‘want it.’ There’s very few guys that really want it defensively. There’s not any tricks or anything special to it. You just got to want it. You have a guy who really wants and puts his heart and passion to it. He’s very smart.”
The Warriors entered Monday’s game on an 11-game winning streak. The Atlanta Hawks came in having lost five of their last six games and were playing on the second night of a back-to-back. This game was a battle, but it sure was a fun one to watch! I don’t want to sell Kevin Durant or Andre Iguodala short, so please do look at the box score. This team is top-heavy, but there were more standout performances than I can cover here.
In the early going, it was the Warriors who found themselves back on their heels. Sure, the Warriors led by two at the end of the first quarter, but they did so behind the strength of a 15-1 run midway through the quarter. Other than that run though, very little went well for the home team and this continued through the second quarter, resulting in a three point deficit (50-53) at halftime. It was just….a little bit of everything. Poor passing, bad communication, and some solid Hawks defense caused 11 Warriors turnovers at the half.
The Hawks came in as the #2 ranked team for causing turnovers, and oddly enough, also as the #2 worst team for turning the ball over themselves. They are essentially the Kent Bazemore of the NBA. They play at a reckless pace that can be equal parts blessing and curse. The Warriors played right into their hands too. More than once, it was lazy passes half-heartedly tossed towards a spot that their teammate never finished running to; but regardless, the Hawks wings were able to grab most of these on the run and push all the way to the rim on the break.
And so it went. The third quarter was more of the same, neither team able to gain any sort of meaningful advantage. It was this nifty Durant to Ian Clark play at the very end of the quarter that finally brought the Warriors back to life, enabling them to end within one point heading into the fourth:
KD stealing rebounds from Curry. I love when teams use the whole clock to get the buzzer beater https://t.co/j7W4QRQrmN— BBALLBREAKDOWN (@bballbreakdown) November 29, 2016
From the first minute of the fourth quarter, it felt like the Dubs were finally ready to get serious about winning this game. An 11-0 run (fueled by Andre Iguodala) put the Warriors up seven before two minutes had elapsed. This was not pretty basketball. This was hard-nosed effort and determination.
The Hawks closed back to within three halfway through the quarter when Bazemore picked up his fifth foul and headed to the bench just as the Warriors hit the bonus. Enter Warriors Death Star lineup with around four and a half minutes left in the game. Now that the Warriors were in the bonus, every whistle sent KD or Curry to the line and the Hawks eventually succumbed to the inexorable crush of the Warriors.
After a solid block from Durant, Paul Millsap used a powerful second chance dunk and another critical three to close the gap, but it was just not enough.
Draymond had two huge blocks to put any doubts to rest.
I personally love a good block. I’m guessing Dennis Schröder is less of a fan after this:
Steve Kerr is also a fan, as he elucidated in his post game interview
“That was amazing. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a sequence like that from one player. The whole team was defending well; we covered shooters and we switched well. But those two plays ended up with Draymond one-on-one. He blocks both shots. Off of the other guy’s bodies...And then closed out on Millsap on the final three with a few seconds left. Just an incredible defensive sequence. Umm....Draymond’s amazing! He literally can guard anyone in the league, from Dwight Howard to Shroder, to everybody else in between.”
We will have a full recap for you in the morning, but for now, let us all bask in the absurdity of this team!