OAKLAND, Calif. — It is often said that basketball is a game of runs. Teams with high “spurtability” can often reel off 10-15 unanswered points at a moment’s notice, quickly and drastically altering the trajectory of a game.
The Golden State Warriors have a very high rate of spurtability. With their deadly marksmanship from the outside, a five point lead can ballon to 15 in seconds.
While you can’t technically go on a run without scoring, it is actually defense that is the most vital part of this whole idea.
Much has been said about the Warriors’ defense throughout the first 40 games this season. Many critics have pointed to Klay Thompson’s dip in defensive prowess, Golden State’s (perceived) lack of rim protection and the fact that the Warriors give up close to 105 points per game.
The Warriors essentially rolled out a red carpet to the iron for the Detroit Pistons last night, as Detroit shot 70.5% on shots inside the three-point arc.
But there is something about this Warriors’ team that prompted Pistons’ guard Reggie Jackson to call out a rather intriguing abnormality.
“They’re a weird team, to be honest,” said Jackson after the 20 point loss. “They do score so much and at the same time they do give up some easy baskets and they allow you to score with them.”
“There’s going to be a stretch where as a team they lock in,” Jackson continued. “They have about a four to eight minute window that they really lock in defensively. As they continue to score, they find a way to get stops. You have to be able to sustain that run.”
There will be plenty of ups and downs on the defensive end throughout the course of a 48-minute game; especially for the Warriors, who play at such a frantic pace.
Very few teams can slow down Golden State’s offense, let alone stop them all together. But if there is a lack of intensity on the defensive end then both teams are essentially just trading baskets, much like we saw in the first 24 minutes of Thursday night’s game.
It’s only when the Warriors come together as a team and string together a span of six-plus minutes of hard nose slap the floor defense, that they have the ability to put just about any game out of reach.
Golden State outscored Detroit 41-19 in the 3rd quarter last night. Andre Drummond had more fouls (two) and turnover’s (three) in the quarter than he did points (two) and rebounds (two). The Dubs completely shut the water off in the 3rd quarter.
“That’s when they really came out in the third and punched us in the mouth,” added Jackson.
What is most important for the Warriors moving forward is figuring out how to sustain this level of defense for more than just four to eight minutes at a time.
GIven how much roster turnover there was heading into this season, Steve Kerr and the Warriors’ coaching staff are still playing with rotations to see which combination of players make the best lineups both offensively and defensively.
“We’re still learning each other. Coach is still learning rotations and sets he wants to run,” Kevin Durant said after the win. “We’re still figuring it out as players as well. We struggled a couple of games in the fourth quarter, but for the most part when you look at the whole season so far, we’ve been playing solid.”
Yes, I will gladly take an 85% winning percentage half way through the season ten out of ten times. But the Warriors have yet to reach their peak and are basically figuring out their strengths and weaknesses on the fly.
Win or lose, what is most important for Golden State, particularly during this regular season, is how much better they get as a team every time they step on the floor.
The numbers are not going to be as sexy as they were a season ago; we as fans need to accept that. But even if they don’t dominate every team on every night they are still getting better with each game played.
The Warriors have spurts where they do indeed look every bit as dominate as they did in their record breaking 73 win season just a year ago. Let’s just hope those spurts turn into full quarters by March, then entire halves by May and complete games by June.
Andrew Flohr is the credentialed writer for GSoM. You can follow him along at every home game on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.