On a night when the three-point shot wasn't falling, the Golden State Warriors found other ways to gut out a win against the Philadelphia 76ers. Stephen Curry had the worst performance in his career from beyond the arc, going 0-11, and the team as a whole shot an abysmal 6-29 from deep. Still, Golden State won by 11 -- a number which would've easily been in the 20s or 30s had they made a reasonable percentage of their threes.
After an apathetic showing against the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday night, Draymond Green wreaked havoc on defense. Jahlil Okafor, who committed 7 turnovers and 5 fouls in limited minutes, was the biggest victim of Green's physical defense.
Perhaps Richaun Holmes was responsible for waking Green up. In the second quarter, Holmes rose up for a one-handed alley-oop dunk and swatted away one of Green's shots, which led to some trash talk. Green responded by putting the game away, getting multiple steals and deflections on defense, setting up teammates offensively and hitting a corner three that helped seal the win.
Before last night's game, Green went seven games without scoring in double digits. He finished the game with 14 points, 11 assists, six rebounds, and five steals. Hint: don't provoke Draymond.
Although he's missed some time with a right shoulder injury, Zaza Pachulia was sprier than the younger, lumbering Okafor. On more than one occasion, Pachulia was able to sneak past Okafor to get to the bucket. Heck, Zaza was able to get any shot he wanted. He even got an alley-oop! Okafor was helpless against the Georgian, who made all five of his shots and nullified Okafor post ups on the other end. Even David West, who was forcing turnovers, drawing charges and boxing out, took his turn to bully Okafor.
As the threes continued to clank off the rim, the Warriors resorted to attacking the paint and drawing fouls -- which is something they lacked a season ago. They earned 39 free throw attempts, 11 of which belonged to Kevin Durant.
“I knew we’d go to the line more this year, just based on Kevin’s presence, but this was pretty dramatic,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said after the game, per ESPN. “I mean, 39 free throws, and almost all of them in the flow of the game. It’s not like they were fouling to stay in it. I was pleased. I think it made up for the fact that we couldn’t make a 3, but we were getting good shots and attacking and putting a lot of pressure on the defense. All good stuff.”
Golden State still doesn't get to the free throw line a ton. They're middle-of-the-pack in free throws attempted at 23.7 per game. However, it is a significant improvement from last season, where they were 23rd in the league at getting to the charity stripe. And it wasn't just Durant bulldozing his way to the line. Curry did a nice job of attacking the basket leading to five free throws on an otherwise historically poor shooting night, and Zaza added seven of his own.
Teams like the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers are going to look to run Golden State off the three-point line come playoff time, so seeing the Warriors score in other ways is an encouraging sign.
The Warriors have a tendency of losing focus against inferior teams, which could spell doom for tonight's game against a sneaky good Washington Wizards team on the second night of a back-to-back. However, as history has also shown, the Warriors only need a short run of brilliance to put away most teams.