The post-All-Star break Golden State Warriors have hardly been recognizable. The "greatest show on earth" has been reduced to a team that misses open threes, struggles to score and lost four of its seven games in March. The malaise culminated in their 16 point deficit to the lowly Philadelphia 76ers in the third quarter of Tuesday night's home game, and it seemed that the team was headed toward a massive collapse a la the 2011 Lakers, who fizzled out in the second round of the postseason after three straight Finals appearances.
Since that third quarter against the Sixers, however, the Warriors have shown the resilience that they displayed for most of the last two seasons. They put together an impressive comeback to edge out the Sixers by 2 points and blew out the Orlando Magic by 20 points last night. It was the first time the Warriors beat a team by 20 or more points since before the All-Star break.
The dominant victory came via aggressive defense, which helped make up for Stephen Curry's continued shooting slump. The Warriors forced 18 turnovers and caused numerous other deflections. The Magic only managed seven points in the first seven minutes of the game.
After a terrible game against the 76ers, Zaza Pachulia responded by putting up his first double-double at home, and he also made a rare dunk. The slow-footed big man was able to zip down the lane and finish through traffic several times, which is usually a struggle for the Georgian. Pachulia's strong performance means he won his bet with Warriors' strength coach, Kurtis Rayfield, who said he'd shave his beard if Pachulia got a double-double and a dunk in the same game.
“I just finished cutting a whole lot of hair,” Pachulia said, via The Mercury News. “Bet is a bet. He kept his word…We have team picture tomorrow. Perfect timing.”
About a minute and a half into the game, Curry slightly tweaked his right ankle and limped to the locker room. It was an all too familiar sight for the fans in Oracle Arena, and if the Dubs were barely holding on to the top seed in the West through the skin of their teeth without Durant, they'd all but crumble without the reigning MVP. However, Klay Thompson more than held down the fort in his Splash Brother's absence, as he combined with Pachulia to score 19 of the Warriors' first 21 points in the first quarter. In just over 9 minutes, Thompson registered 21 points on 8-of-10 shooting and 5-of-5 from beyond the arc.
The Warriors' fast start and ability to build on their lead allowed their core guys to rest in the fourth quarter, a luxury they haven't had as of late. After appearing timid on drives, Iguodala has continued his strong play. He scored 14 points in the game, 10 of which came on a season-high 5 dunks.
It seems the only lingering issue for the Warriors is Curry's persistent shooting woes. He missed his first three open threes and then hesitated before clanking the fourth one. For the "Curry isn't effective if he isn't hitting threes" crowd, he adjusted and found other ways to score and contribute to the win, scoring 25 points on 8-of-15 shooting and dishing out nine assists. He put up those numbers despite making just two of his seven three-point tries, one of which luckily banked in.
While the Magic aren't a good team by any means, it was comforting to see the Warriors return to their dominant form and allow the starters extended rest. Bring on the Bucks.