The Golden State Warriors defeated the Washington Wizards 139-115 at home behind a stellar performance from the reigning MVP. The home win extends their winning streak to 11, and the team has never looked better this season. Within the 11-win streak was a particularly difficult week long stretch, where the Warriors faced five straight playoff opponents.
From today to last Sunday, the Warriors faced the Memphis Grizzlies, the Houston Rockets, the San Antonio Spurs (on a back-to-back), the Rockets again, and finally the Wizards. They capped off that week with another brilliant display of team basketball, with important contributions coming through the depth chart.
Stephen Curry rose to the challenge of playing against John Wall and posted an MVP-like performance. He finished with 42 points in 36 minutes, making nine of his 14 three pointers, and adding countless highlights. Beyond his seemingly effortless scoring (Curry shot 68% from the field), the reigning MVP dished out eight dimes with just one turnover. His ability to dance around defenders, stretch defenses till they snap, and either score or set up a teammate deserves special recognition, but should not come as a surprise; this is a two-time MVP, the only unanimous MVP in league history, and a champion.
Draymond Green posted another triple-double, his fifth of the season, and the Warriors remain an undefeated 19-0 in all games which he reaches that special mark. He would finish the game with a team-high plus 28, and was everywhere. As his case for Defensive Player of the Year grows stronger during this win streak, his offense has suffered. Green has shot 39 percent from the field during the streak, making just 22 percent of his three-point attempts. While this doesn’t look great, the Warriors don’t need him to be a scoring threat, even less so when Durant returns.
Warriors play-by-play announcer Bob Fitzgerald referred to the bench group of Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, and David West as the “three wise man.” While I’m not partial to that nickname, the trio has used their veteran know-how to become extremely important during the winning streak. Iguodala has looked completely rejuvenated, though it was Livingston who picked up the scoring slack. Livingston would make eight of his ten attempts from the field, pulling down seven boards as well, and finishing the night with 17 points.
Javale McGee had the highest plus-minus of any bench player, with plus 14 in just eight minutes of play. This was slightly inflated by an excruciating sequence that occured at the end of regulation in which McGee was fouled shooting a three, and an extended replay deemed the foul a flagrant. McGee was active on both ends, grabbing four offensive rebounds and swatting away three shots, importantly without committing a single foul.
Though this iteration of the team without Durant has lost more games than the games with Durant, the team as a whole hasn’t looked stronger since the 2015-16 season. In the challenge of Durant’s injury lied an opportunity, and as the adage goes “pressure bursts pipes or makes diamonds,” the Warriors crafted a jewel in their latest performances. While the team looked shaky in the immediate aftermath of the injury, losing five games in two weeks, they have since bounced back in incredible fashion, thanks to a reinvigorated Iguodala, a driven and purposeful Curry, and a teamwide commitment to defense.
The remaining challenge of the regular season will be Durant’s re-integration. The reality is that adding Durant back into the lineup will carry some short-term conformity costs, but in the long-term, his return, combined with the stellar play of the entire roster is cause for optimism. The team is hitting a tremendous stride and can only get better.