After sleepwalking through the season, the Golden State Warriors may finally be waking up.
Steph Curry is back, Andre Iguodala is trying, Steve Kerr is starting the Hamptons 5, and Klay Thompson...well, Klay is always doing his thing.
After dropping Game 3 in New Orleans, the Warriors came storming back for a dominating performance in game four, setting themselves up to bring a merciful close to this series — if they can close out tonight at home. Coach Steve Kerr has indicated that he’ll start the Hampton 5 again, signaling that the Warriors are done messing around.
WHAT: Golden State Warriors vs. New Orleans Pelicans, Game 5
WHEN: Tuesday, May 8 7:30 p.m.
WHERE: Oracle Arena — Oakland, CA
LISTEN: 95.7 The Game
Blog buddy: The Bird Writes
The Warriors are just a better team
These Warriors could possibly have the most talented five-man roster ever assembled. We have four All-Stars, and at least one other player (Andre Iguodala) who is almost certainly a lock for the Hall of Fame.
Steve Kerr compares the Curry, Klay, Iguodala, KD, Draymond lineup to the MJ, Pippen, Kukoc, Harper and Rodman pic.twitter.com/a7Yoqsww0c— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) May 7, 2018
For most of the season, they battled injuries and ennui, but still ended up with the second best record in the Western Conference. Like a boxer faking a stagger only to deliver a knockout blow to an overconfident opponent, the Warriors are starting to feel more and more like they sandbagged the regular season. Now, while the league has a season’s worth of lackadaisical defense in their brain, the Warriors have finally turned all systems to go and are ready to deliver their knockout punch.
Don’t look now, but this resurgence isn’t solely tied to the return of Stephen Curry — though to be fair, that helps too:
Death by a Thousand Cuts
Green made two of his four attempts on Sunday and is now 7-of-15 (.467) in the series, while Iguodala went 2-of-5 in Game 4 to improve to 4-of-11 (.364) in the series. For the playoffs as a whole, Green and Iguodala are converting three-pointers at 34.9 percent and 39.3 percent clips, respectively.
While neither player is shooting an astronomical number, these three pointers are critically important because those are the shots that opposing defenses are giving us. One of the expected developments from teams embracing “Moreyball” is that defenses are getting more and more keyed into taking away three point attempts, and layups.
So? It’s death by a thousand cuts then (ignore the part about CP3...at least until next week).
In the postseason, Golden State's attempted the most midrange shots (28% frequency) among teams that are still alive and second overall behind Washington. They've maintained a 109 offensive rating, third overall.— Positive Residual (@presidual) May 7, 2018
The Warriors have hit around half of their midrange attempts, a slight improvement over their season average of 47%, and most of these have come from Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson.
With teams chasing Curry and our other shooters off the perimeter, the mid-range game opens up the offense by taking what the defense is giving. Which will then force teams to make the tough choice as to whether to cover these new looks, potentially opening themselves to the relentless probing of Curry and Thompson.
Which, is you know... not ideal for the defense:
After Game 4, Steve Kerr said that Steph Curry “made a breakthrough conditioning wise and he was moving much better.” This video proves that... pic.twitter.com/bQ6Rvrblfn— Drew Shiller (@DrewShiller) May 7, 2018
The Pelicans are struggling to stay competitive
In case you’ve lost track, this has been one heck of a weird series. In Game 1, the Warriors (without Curry) blew the Pelicans out of the water and crushed them by 22 points. Game 2 was the most competitive of the series: Curry comes back, but the Warriors barely hold off the Pelicans to win by five.
Then Game 3 happened.
Behind a powerful performance from Anthony Davis, and 21 assists from Rajon “Playoff” Rondo, the Pelicans absolutely demolished the Warriors.
We had Steph Curry, we weren’t supposed to lose. But as a team, the Warriors shot 38 percent overall, and 28 percent from deep. Some of that was defense, some bad shooting, but the end results were the same.
Unfortunately, in spite of coach Alvin Gentry’s coy response, the Pelicans had not in fact discovered the secret to beating the Warriors, as evidenced by the 118-92 whoopin’ laid on them in game four. Anthony Davis managed just two field goals in the second half of that game.
So they’ve seen what works, but are not able to reliably repeat those results. Let’s see if that’s any different when they’re given another chance.
Let’s not get physical
I appreciate grit as much as the next guy, but Rondo in particular is dangerously close to overstepping the line between “gritty” and “dirty.” With Draymond Green playing his familiar antagonistic role, he’s already endured Charles Barkley talking about punching him, and a random fan “joking” about shooting him. With so much of our team’s fortunes tied to health, the most important outcome of tonight’s game is just to escape without any injuries.
As I mentioned previously, I bought tickets to Game 5 before the series had even commenced. I’m really hoping for a closeout game tonight, and another gentlemen’s sweep for the Warriors in their quest to repeat as NBA Champions.
Warriors 123 - Pels 78