The Warriors dealt with a bunch of injuries near the end of the regular season, and never had the depth or effort one would expect from a playoff contender. I wondered whether the Warriors would be able to “turn on the switch” in the playoffs despite missing MVP Stephen Curry and not trying their best on the defensive end in months.
Well, they turned on the switch. Even though the San Antonio Spurs are lacking star talent, the Warriors have won the first three games of the series by comfortable margins, and look incredibly locked in.
So what’s the difference? First, the Warriors are healthy (sans Stephen Curry and Patrick McCaw). Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston look better now than at any point in the regular season, which is crucial given their age.
But mostly, the Warriors ramped up their defensive intensity significantly. Coach Steve Kerr has been starting Andre Iguodala to begin the game with great defense, and their ability to switch every pick and roll makes it difficult for the Spurs to get good looks. Draymond Green and Kevin Durant have been menaces on that end, while JaVale McGee, Kevon Looney, and David West have each stout defense as well.
The shortened playoff rotation—Zaza Pachulia, Nick Young, and Jordan Bell have yet to play rotation minutes—has few defensive weaknesses: only Quinn Cook is unproven on that end. The Spurs have shot terribly this series, hitting only 24.1% of their threes and struggling to finish inside over the Warriors’ length.
The Warriors have also out-rebounded the Spurs, a minor surprise, and hit their threes. Despite Kevin Durant’s cold three-point shooting, the Warriors are shooting 41% from three this series, propelled mostly by Klay Thompson’s 13-20 performance. But Andre Iguodala, Draymond Green, and Quinn Cook have hit enough threes to keep the defense honest as well.
The one area of concern for the Warriors is turnovers. Both Game 1 and 2 had too many dumb plays and miscommunications, but the Warriors were able to keep it under control in Game 3. It’s refreshing to see the Warriors play their hardest after a regular season disrupted by injuries and disinterest: props to them for turning on the switch so dominantly.
This group is still learning to play together, and the initial results have been as good as can be expected. They can be even better against the Pelicans in Round 2, and hopefully, Stephen Curry can be reintegrated with the team at his own leisure.