The Warriors have started to master "turning it on" at just the right time. Take Tuesday's victory against the Wizards: Golden State is visibly wearing down with the season grind. They are no longer blowing teams out by 30. Their stars are trying to get rest whenever they can (and some mired in shooting slumps). Steve Kerr is forced to play end-of-the-bench players because of injuries. And yet, struggling through all that, the Warriors were able to keep the Wizards at bay all night. They were never truly threatened en route to a 102-94 victory.
How do the Dubs keep pulling this off? They are no longer the young team that blows big leads to lesser competition. They are the veteran team that gets big baskets in crunch time. They are the pros who stop opponents' runs with runs of their own. They know how to play the game, and this has been the key to their success this year.
The game was a series of runs; the Warriors would hit their 8-2 run, then the Wizards would hit theirs. The key was finding the right matchup, exposing the mismatch, and trusting the system. Even when the shots were not falling, Golden State didn't panic. A Kerr time out, a great ran play, and the momentum was back. The team doesn't need to trust hero ball to win, they have great scouting, high IQ, and proven results. Even when they aren't embarrassing teams, their backbone of a game plan can still out-wit teams.
We take a dive into a few facets of Monday's the game to find out what went right and what went wrong:
Went right: Contributions from the whole bench
The Warriors had 11 healthy bodies last night, and used each one of them extensively to balance the workload. This required performances and contributions from each player on both ends of the floor to keep the Wizards at bay. Golden State made most of their push during a run at the end of the third that extended into the fourth. This run included big help from Marreese Speights, Anderson Varejao and even Ian Clark in the backcourt. Clark was one of the only players on the roster that ended up with a negative plus/minus, and this was directly related to the scoring binge that garbage time all star J.J. Hickson went on to wrap up the game.
While Festus Ezeli heals and Andre Iguodala gets closer to returning, the Warriors are going to need more games like this. Having Shaun Livingston back was a huge help. Curry and Thompson will predictably take over when it counts, but avoiding them having to overwork is huge.
It will be a nightly game to guess who can step up, but so far many have come to the call.
Went Wrong: The turnovers
The Warriors really love that backdoor pass. They also really love that leak-out outlet. When the team is fatigued, they overplay the leak out, much like a pick up game where nobody is interested in playing half court offense. This worked against the Wizards - Washington wanted no part of the up and down game (surprising since they have John Wall). The Dubs finished with 16 turnovers, and should have been punished much more for it.
Put a few of these turnovers on Dray's attempt to get his triple double last night. Getting that ninth assist seemed to be the focus to leave the stars in at the very end, and this produced some bad shots and predictable results. Let the man go for the numbers, but we have seen a few times this year where Draymond's push for stats has produced some ugly basketball. The Warriors scored most efficiently when they ran their offense with the second unit. I give credit to Mo and Harrison Barnes for running the offense the right way when the stars were out, and punishing Washington's bench.
Went Right: Getting Harrison Back on track
Speaking of Harrison Barnes, I have to give credit where credit is due. He still cannot finish around the rim at this point, but we are starting to see Barnes' shot come back just in time for the playoffs. He finished 6 of 11, but the impressive ones were his wing jumper (which should be automatic for him) and a nice drive off a pump fake.
Even more impressive has been his rebounding. I love seeing the athletic Barnes fly around on the offensive boards. Often times he is the only Warrior under the basket after the high pick and roll. He has bought into throwing around his body, out hustling his opponents for scrappy boards. His rebounding is actually down from last year, but I blame injuries on this for the most part. I feel like Barnes is finally feeling healthy again after his long layoff, however his offensive game is just now coming around. The hustle is there, even the dunking. Keep it up Harrison.
Went Wrong: Draymond needs rest
Draymond Green has been playing a lot of minutes this year. He is at a season high 34 minutes per game, including many hard minutes down in the post playing against bigger bodies. The team brought in Andy Varejao to limit Green's minutes at the center position with Bogut needing rest down the stretch. The team, in it's push to win 73 games, continues to lean on Green for big "glue" minutes.
While it hasn't 100% shown on Green -- his jumper is coming back and his stats are still high -- I would pressure that the man will eventually need his rest. Any chance to get it will be key, and a suggestion would be more run for McAdoo or Speights with the starters when they can. I'm all about Curry getting his rest, but Draymond arguably puts even more wear on his tires during games. Hopefully when the healthy bodies come back, they will find a chance to put him in street clothes.
- I loved the tributes to Craig Sager all night, by both the players and the coaches. My father was recently diagnosed with cancer - great to see the fight in a person while under a serious diagnosis like this to get out there nightly and perform. While Sager seemed to not be as sharp as usual, nobody cared to wait a second for him to compose. A huge inspiration.
- The Warriors play tonight on the back-to-back in Utah against another young spry team. The big bodies of Utah should provide a challenge, but good to give Bogut some rest against the Wizards. I think this one will be close, but predicting the win.