After opening this five-game road trip with two games in Los Angeles, the Warriors made the cross-country journey to face the Washington Wizards on Thursday night. The Warriors came into Capital One Arena riding a hot streak, playing some of their best basketball of the season over the past couple of weeks. But the Wizards presented a challenge as they’d been playing well of late, even after losing their All-Star point guard John Wall for the season to a heel injury.
It was a game that saw the Warriors look both dominant (leading by as many as 15 points) and uninterested (allowing the Wizards to cut the lead to 2 points late in the fourth quarter). Despite those lapses that let the Wizards keep things close, playing with their food rather than putting it away, the Warriors always felt in control of this game as they earned the 126-118 victory.
Curry casts a spell on the Wizards yet again
Stephen Curry has made a habit of having some of his best games against the Wizards. This is perhaps best exemplified by his 51-point performance against them earlier this season. This trend continued as Curry dominated the Wizards yet again, leading his team to victory. Curry scored 38 points on Thursday night, leading all scorers. It was Curry’s fourth game with 30+ points in the last six.
What makes this all the more impressive was just how Curry was able to do all this. Curry managed to score 38 points while going 2/8 from three-point range, a below-average night for him in terms of three-point accuracy and the number of three-pointers attempted.
One of those three-point makes came late in the second quarter, as the Warriors pushed the lead to double digits after this make from long distance.
While Curry and the Warriors are famous for their three-point shooting, their shooting inside the three-point line was the reason for their victory against the Wizards. The Warriors scored 70 points in the paint, compared to just 48 for the Wizards.
It was clear that the Wizards’ defensive strategy was to keep the Warriors, and Curry in particular, from getting good looks from long distance. Running players at them, getting them off the three-point line, making sure Curry, Kevin Durant, and Klay Thompson were pressured no matter what, this was clearly the Wizards’ gameplan.
Though the Wizards did manage to force the Warriors into a below-average night from three-point range, their approach also left the lane wide open and the Warriors took full advantage. Curry was a major contributor to that as he did a great job of scoring at the rim, like on this basket that allowed him to get three points the old-fashioned way.
Curry’s handles and dribbling abilities were also on display against the Wizards, skills he used to elude pressuring Wizards defenders.
It’s the kind of performance must have been tough to watch if you’re someone who doesn’t think much of Curry’s handles or that he is a true point guard.
Here an honest question: how much does handle matter to you in evaluating an all time great? I kind of feel like Curry’s handle could be good not great and he’d be the same player https://t.co/CYN7BILMoc— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) October 31, 2018
He’s not a PG tho— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) January 19, 2019
This strategy against Curry, forcing him off the three-point line, isn’t revolutionary. It’s what teams have been trying to do against Curry for 6 years now. But it does seem like the Warriors’ opponents have been making it an extreme priority recently. Curry showed on Thursday night was that even if you force him off the three-point line, even if you force him to be a more conventional point guard, he’s still one of the best in the league and can get his team a win.
Boogie continues to groove
With so much emphasis being placed on three-point shooters, that meant that players who can dominate in the paint were going to be key to any Warriors victory, players like DeMarcus Cousins.
Cousins scored 17 points on Thursday night, the most points he’s scored in a game since January 22nd of 2018 against the Chicago Bulls. While Cousins’ outside shooting was on display in the two wins in Los Angeles, against the Wizards the Warriors’ big man showed off some of his fancy footwork and his ability to convert up close.
The one thing the Warriors haven’t had is a big man who can score consistently, a center who isn’t in one way or another an offensive liability. In Cousins, they have someone who they can give it to in the post and just watch him work. They have someone who can move around opposing big men, either getting a basket for himself or creating a better look for one of his teammates. When teams make shutting down the three-point line such a priority, the Warriors now have a player who can make them pay in the paint.
But Cousins wasn’t just an offensive presence against the Wizards. He also came up with some solid defensive plays too, like this block on a Thomas Bryant attempt.
In addition to those 17 points, Cousins finished Thursday night’s game with 6 rebounds and 3 assists. Though he ran out of gas towards the end of the game (which makes sense as it’s his third game back and he played a season-high 24 minutes), it was easily Cousins’ best performance in a Warriors uniform.
Iguodala turns in a June-quality performance in January
It isn’t treading new ground to say that Andre Iguodala is inclined to take regular season games lightly. He knows that the Warriors need him to be ready in the playoffs. That’s when he really earns his paycheck. But against the Wizards, Iguodala gave everyone a taste of what they can expect once the postseason rolls around.
The 2015 Finals MVP scored 11 points on Thursday night, his second game with 10+ points in the last four. Not surprisingly, counting his points doesn’t do justice to all the ways Iguodala positively impacted his team. He also had 5 assists against the Wizards, all without turning it over once.
Iguodala’s basketball intelligence along with his ability to run this Warriors’ offense and put the ball in the right player’s hands is one thing that makes him to valuable to this team even if his ability to score has diminished ever so slightly. This presence was an important one against the Wizards, a team that likes to force turnovers and disrupt their opponent’s offense. Iguodala’s steady hand and sharp mind was key in helping the Warriors navigate that challenge.
Iguodala gave us a taste of everything he can do on Thursday night and just how well he can do those things. It was as if he was telling everyone who worries that he might not have enough left in the tank when the playoffs roll around that they should just relax.
Durant and Draymond dominate on defense
Playing near his hometown where he just opened an after-school learning center, Durant struggled offensively on Thursday night. Durant scored 21 points, a relatively low number for him. Durant also had 4 of the Warriors’ 15 turnovers, continuing a stretch when the All-Star forward has been prone to be careless with the ball.
But Durant made some very positive contributions on defense. Durant was an active and engaged defender throughout the game, willing to step up and guard the Wizards’ best player in Bradley Beal. The energy Durant brought defensively, making sure he stayed on Beal as he tried to get Durant switched off him, was something to behold. The result was Beal being held to a (relatively) pedestrian night: 22 points on 8/22 shooting and 1/9 from three-point range. Save for some remarkable (and lucky) three-point shooting from Trevor Ariza and Tomas Satoransky, the Wizards couldn’t get much else going offensively against the Warriors, decidedly lacking any consistency or efficiency in that aspect of the game.
Durant’s stellar defense showed up in the box score as he finished the game with 3 blocks and 2 steals.
Draymond Green’s defense was also stellar against the Wizards. Green finished the game with steals and blocks to go with his points and assists. Green was incredibly active in this game, giving the Warriors an energy boost from the opening tip. Green paired 7 points, 15 rebounds, and 7 assists with his active defense, the kind of performance we’re accustomed to seeing from Green.
The next stop for the Warriors is the northeast as they make their way to Boston to face the Celtics in a marquee matchup on Saturday night.