Back on January 3rd, James Harden hit a tough three-pointer to put the Houston Rockets up by one over the Golden State Warriors as the game wound to a close - handing the Warriors their first (and only) loss in 2019.
Now? They’ve won ten straight games, with no signs of slowing. It took awhile to get going, but we are now seeing the new Warriors juggernaut, and it’s impressive.
Last night, they held off an extremely tough Boston Celitcs team. While Demarcus Cousins wasn’t a huge factor, his presence has altered the conversation around who has a legitimate shot at Warriors this year.
Cousins as a “force multiplier”
Not only are the Warriors 10-0, they’ve been getting there in a dominant fashion. Since the loss to the Rockets, the Warriors have by far the best point differential - winning games by an average of 16 points during this span. The next closest team? The rising Milwaukee Bucks with an impressive +12 and a 9-2 record.
Golden State has somewhat abandoned their defensive identity (or at least are wearing it underneath their clothes like a superhero in disguise) but boy... that offense. The team’s offensive rating has been a whopping 125 since that game in Denver. Already leading the league in scoring at around 118 points per contest, the team has found another gear.
A lot of this is due to the addition of Demarcus Cousins. An offensively-talented big man, the likes of which this team hasn’t had since they moved to Oakland, Cousins fills in all the right gaps. Coach Steve Kerr has always looked to utilize his post passing - from Andrew Bogut to David West (and even David Lee) - and Cousins has thrived. Though he hasn’t played anywhere near the minutes, his production per 36 minutes is...gaudy. 23 points, 12 rebounds, and six assists. He could do more too - and likely will. These numbers are associated with what would be his lowest shot attempt rate since his rookie season.
In military parlance, a force multiplier refers to “a factor or a combination of factors that dramatically increases (hence “multiplies”) the effectiveness of an item or group.” Like an artillery unit equipped with GPS, Cousins presence amplifies the threat level from an already dangerous and all-time great roster.
The added talent is an almost psychological attack on the senses. A team this good, with this much talent and basketball IQ just added this dude?! It makes the team better, sure, but the impact goes beyond that. Adding him as another threat has a profound effect on what teams think they can do against us. As Wjsy writes over at our sister site, The Celtics Blog, it’s not just Cousins - it’s what he means this team has become now:
Less than three minutes into the first quarter, DeMarcus Cousins raced down the court in transition, got deep into the paint with Al Horford on his back, kicked out to Klay Thompson, erased Kyrie Irving on a screen, and freed up Thompson for an easy 3. It was a microcosm of what he’s going to add to an already formidable team: a sizeable threat in the post, a monster floor spacer on the perimeter, and a smart, mindful player that just adds to the total basketball IQ of the Warriors.
But anytime I start thinking about how unfair it is that we added Cousins (I chuckled while looking at our roster in basketballreference.com to get those stats in the preceding paragraph), I can’t help but marvel at the roster before Cousins.
Remember, this is a team that went into Denver and demolished the first place team. It’s too early to talk about final season standings, but the Warriors grabbed the top seed in that last game before Cousins joined the squad and have only further distanced themselves from that pack since then.
Looking ahead - how much longer can this go?
I don’t have any tremendous insight here, but the upcoming schedule is worth a good long look for those trying to predict how long this win streak could extend. Looking at our upcoming slate of games, it’s not at all inconceivable that Golden State could keep winning through the All Star break.