At some point during second quarter of the Golden State Warriors' win against the Dallas Mavericks, Oracle Arena went into its ambient noise mode that is usually reserved for nervous moments during losses.
After breaking from an off-topic conversation with my buddy, I noted how weird it was to hear a crowd that disengaged from a game in which the Warriors were up 8-10 and appeared on track for another victorious evening in an historic season.
I elaborated on this a bit during last week's Golden State of Mindcast because I think it's representative of a theme that might end up defining the third quarter of this season: if winning more than 90% of games isn't boring, it does become a somewhat monotonous routine. And we're at about where it's an unavoidable reality that Warriors fans have gotten to a point where winning is expected to the point that only the spectacular — whether individual performances or trouncing another team — can really excite the crowd. Make no mistake: there's enough excitement to go around in this season to the point that you can't totally tune out, especially if you've been following this team through its years of misery. But there really are moments — perfectly understandable moments — when it's easy to be left waiting for the time of year when the games mean a bit more instead of intently focusing on every possession.
It's hard to maintain focus through monotony, whether in professional sports or real life. So to some extent, we — as fans who have occasionally showed signs of boredom in various ways — should be sympathetic.
That's why that quote in an article Diamond Leung of the Bay Area News Group from Warriors assistant coach Ron Adams about the San Antonio Spurs being "a veteran team -- that recognizes every possession in every game is important and for the most part plays that way" seemed so significant; that really needs to be taken as one of the greatest strengths of this Spurs dynasty. As Adams noted, the challenge ahead of the Warriors is as much about maintaining focus as they continue to see signs of their own dominance on the scoreboard every night as it is about matchups night to night or specific teams looking to knock them off.
If the Warriors can't entirely avoid what Warriors coach Steve Kerr calls "human nature games", according to a fairly excellent piece by Paul Flannery of SB Nation published yesterday, then they have to find a way to cope when symptoms of monotony (or maybe flat out boredom) manifest.
This week, we yet again got a glimpse of human nature spoiling the routine when the Warriors blew a 24-point third quarter lead against the lowly Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night. And, oddly enough, the player who epitomized what happens when the Warriors get bored enough to test their own limits was newly minted 2016 NBA All-Star Draymond Green.
By now you've heard the story of Green's failed bid for a triple-double on Saturday, which even included a full confession and apology to reporters as reported in full by ESPN's Ethan Strauss and others. It was a reminder that a lapse in judgment and motivation can be costly in the NBA, as described nicely by Strauss.
The gap between this historic Warriors team and the Ish Smith-led Sixers shouldn't be closed by motivation, but in the NBA, margins are small. Saturday's close call was a reminder of that. The basketball gods sent an admonishment, sans punishment. Next time, they might not be so forgiving.
A frustrated Kerr talked a little bit more about his theories on human nature, as reported by Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post on Saturday.
"It shouldn’t be human nature [to lose focus]," Kerr said. "It’s the NBA … everybody has talent. "Motivation should come, in a game like this where you have a big lead, the motivation should come in helping the guys on the bench get some good playing time.
So then naturally Green bounced back by actually getting that ninth triple-double of the season against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden last night, as summarized in a quote from Green captured by Rusty Simmons of the S.F. Chronicle.
"That’s how you (record a triple-double). It comes within the flow of the game, within the flow of the offense," said Green, who was pressing to get assists Saturday to complete a triple-double. "That’s how all of them have been, but when you start doing what I did yesterday, it doesn’t work out. I was kind of happy I didn’t get it yesterday, because I didn’t deserve it. I’ve never been a numbers guy, but for some reason yesterday, I just wanted to do it. "That’s not who I am, so I’m happy I didn’t get it yesterday."
One of the things that has been amazing about this Warriors team this season is that even when they lose focus, motivation, or their sense of who they are, they usually manage to find it again relatively quickly — they're truly a team with a readily accessible on/off switch, if not as a result of everyone being on all the time then certainly the ability for someone to ignite them and give them the jolt they need.
That they have an All-Star willingly accepting responsibility for one of those lapses in focus — a brief stretch in which he lost sight of the big picture and who he is — is part of what makes this team so special. And, even when it's agonizing, it makes things a bit more interesting.
Draymond Green backs up his first NBA All-Star selection with ninth triple-double
There are people who will dismiss triple-doubles as arbitrary and, yes, they certainly are an arbitrary marker: it's not inherently true that a player who gets a triple-double was more significant to his team's success than a player who falls just short or the player who pulls a five-by-five (as Green already has this season). But the fact that they don't happen often and that those who do get them multiple times tend to be All-Stars and/or future Hall of Famers makes them at least an interesting indicator of versatility.
Take for example Draymond Green's company when looking at his ninth triple-double last night:
Draymond Green (20 pts, 10 rebs, 10 asts) has his 9th triple-double of the season, matching Tom Gola for most in single season by a Warrior— GSWStats (@gswstats) February 1, 2016
Per @EliasSports, Draymond Green is 1st player to go perfect from the field on 9+ attempts in a triple-double since Wilt Chamberlain in 1967— GSWStats (@gswstats) February 1, 2016
Most FG without a miss in a triple-double, NBA history— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 1, 2016
1966-67 Wilt Chamberlain: 18
1965-66 Wilt Chamberlain: 12
Tonight, Draymond Green: 9
I mean...this is really impressive stuff. Play like we saw last night just validates the selection for anyone who's doubting the selection of a former second round pick.
We've all known that Draymond Green was deserving of his All-Star selection for some time so we don't need to explore that at length, but his reaction to the selection and TNT's Jordan meme in reaction to his reaction is priceless. Alysha Tsuji of USA Today summarized that nicely.
More reactions to the Knicks game
- First, can we talk about that weird play when Carmelo Anthony put his hand on Stephen Curry's head? Yeah, that was weird. Frank Isola of the New York Daily News summed that nonsense up.
- Steve Kerr, upset with another, um, underachieving start, broke a clipboard in the second quarter of last night's game. Draymond Green's reaction, as quoted by Fred Kerber of the New York Post: "He was dead serious. He broke the clipboard and then threw it," Green said. "It was probably well deserved."
- Derek Fisher had more to say about the Warriors' ability to turn it on and off in an article by Chris Iseman of The Record: "I thought they went to another level of intensity and activity on the defensive end," Fisher said. "In the first half, I thought our energy was good and we were right there. They went to a level of that they’re capable of getting to and created some separation." Now...imagine if they could do that for 48 minutes consistently...or even 36?
- Steph Curry didn't have a great game, but Kerber's advance article on Curry's sublime mix of humility and "brash arrogance" was a decent read.
- There were lots of comments after the game about Klay Thompson's 34-point performance last night, mostly centered on his ability to play within the offense. Diamond Leung of the Bay Area News Group got the quote from Thompson: "I'm just trying to stay within the offense, play as intelligent as possible, play off my teammates, and stay moving the whole time."
- Andrew Keh of the New York Times had more to say about Thompson, getting a bit more specific about what he did well against the Knicks: "Thompson was magnificent, and the Knicks could not track his movement. He tiptoed back and forth and side to side, making cuts at unexpected times, punishing any slack defense from long range."
Klay Thompson's All-Star week
- It was a banner week for Klay Thompson, who dropped 45 on the Mavs in that game on Wednesday. Ethan Strauss wrote up a great analysis of Thompson after that game, including a bit on why he might not be the NBA's best shooting guard in a vacuum but is an All-Star fit for this team: "Yes, Thompson probably couldn't be the one-man offense James Harden provides the Houston Rockets. It's also probable that Golden State couldn't comfortably incorporate Harden's expansive repertoire. The Warriors need someone who can cut and move all game, despite not getting the ball on many possessions. They need someone who can cede creative control to Curry and Green, while also occasionally stepping in and taking over. Thompson obliges, stays with it and on a night like Wednesday, reminds everyone that a supporting actor can also be an All-Star."
- Kelly Scaletta of Today's Fastbreak wrote up a great analysis of Klay's value to the Warriors, including mathematical diagrams and a solid explanation of how court spacing works by the numbers.
- Steve Kerr on Klay Thompson's reaction to being named an All-Star reserve from CSN: "Knowing Klay he probably doesn't even know yet," Kerr joked. "He's probably out walking his dog or something. He'll find out tomorrow maybe (laughing)."
There were obviously more links out there from last week and I got really carried away with Draymond Green. So feel free to drop additional links in the comments, write a FanPost, or create a FanShot — love the activity in the FanShot section lately and I'm definitely making a concerted effort to make sure we get those distributed on our social media channels so people can find them more easily. And I've promoted a few to the front page in the last week. So keep on posting those!