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Warrior Wonder: That third quarter burst is what makes Golden State special

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In a typically dominant third, Warriors displayed what works.

NBA: Playoffs-Houston Rockets at Golden State Warriors Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Generally, these Warrior Wonder articles are meant to highlight the player who best represents the Golden spirit — whether that be an over-achieving role player, or someone like Stephen Curry or Kevin Durant doing their normal “dominate every night” thing.

For this one though, I’m taking it another direction: the Warrior Wonder for this game is our third quarter, which embodies what makes this team special.

The Warriors had seven assists in the third quarter

We were +17 in the third, but I would posit that the assists and ball movement were nearly as important as the scoring.

The Golden State Warriors led the NBA (by a wide margin) with 29 assists per game during the regular season. Last night, against the Houston Rockets the Warriors only managed 14. Just about half of what their average was over the course of the season.

These numbers don’t just organically happen, but rather are a critical feature of what makes this Warriors team so special. As per Anthony Slater:

The Warriors averaged 29 assists per game this season, which led the NBA. They had 35 or more 18 times. They hit 46 once. They were the king of ball movement. In 94 prior games, including the playoffs, they’ve only had fewer than 20 assists three times.

Now, some of the low assist total can be attributed to our poor shooting (39% as a team), but there’s little doubt that the dearth of assists is strongly correlated to the Warriors not looking like themselves. In contrast to that excellent third quarter, the Warriors were 3-for-18 in the fourth, with just one measly assist and four turnovers.

In contrast to all the contested turnaround jumpers he took, just watch how Durant moves the ball after getting double-teamed in the third quarter last night. This is what Warriors ball looks like, and a big part of how we were successful in the third:

Strength In Numbers (assuming we have the numbers)

At first I didn’t believe it, but I’ve seen enough comments on the subject to know people are seriously considering laying some blame for this loss at the feet of Warriors coach Steve Kerr or even blaming our roster construction. Nope. The Houston Rockets kicked our butts. Not the refs, not some weird coaching. The Warriors lost this game, straight up.

And I can’t let this slander stand unaddressed.

We are unexpectedly operating without someone who we thought would be a key bench player (Patrick McCaw); although not great in the season, his absence extends our wing rotation. We also had to make the tough choice to let go of Omri Casspi, another wing.

Then Andre Iguodala goes down. Then, Klay Thompson tweaks his leg and we are stuck looking at a wing rotation consisting of Nick Young and maybe Shaun Livingston. That’s tough.

Especially when both of those two guys crap the bed with their worst games of the playoffs: Livingston was so bad (four turnovers, four fouls and just four points) that Kerr only played him 15 minutes. Nick Young did nothing (-14 in his 12 minutes, including 0-2 from deep).

We’d already given Kevon Looney the first start of his young career, so Kerr looks down the bench and dusts off Jordan Bell — a player many of us pegged to be a potential factor in this series. And guess what? Bell played ok. Six points on 3-4 shooting, five rebounds and one block, and a steal.

That third quarter

The Warriors took the third in a decisive fashion, outscoring the Rockets 34-17 and taking control of the game. Sure, they coughed it up in the fourth, but the third quarter looked like normal Warriors basketball, the fourth quarter did not.

Stylized offensive considerations aside, the Warriors need to play like they did in the third quarter if they want to win this series. It’s worked for them for years now, and it is what makes us, us.

We could have won that game. Now, the Warriors have to win two out of the next three in order to advance. Their best bet for doing that is playing like it’s always the third quarter.

Poll

Who was your Warrior Wonder for game 4 against the Rockets?

This poll is closed

  • 39%
    Steph Curry
    (179 votes)
  • 4%
    Kevin Durant
    (19 votes)
  • 1%
    Klay Thompson
    (8 votes)
  • 7%
    Draymond Green
    (32 votes)
  • 1%
    Kevon Looney
    (8 votes)
  • 12%
    Nick Young (aka, I’m a Rockets fan)
    (57 votes)
  • 2%
    Jordan Bell
    (10 votes)
  • 7%
    Shaun Livingston’s dunk on Capela
    (34 votes)
  • 23%
    That classic 3rd quarter splash fest
    (109 votes)
456 votes total Vote Now