Is this finally it? Have the Warriors flipped the flippin’ switch?!?
Like many of the most faithful fans of the Golden State Warriors, I’ve been impatiently waiting for the two-time defending champion to start looking like it again. Still one of the best teams in the league by any measure, it was the Warriors’ offense that has been their strength.
With Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, and Klay Thompson, and now the added post threat of DeMarcus Cousins, it’s mostly worked. Though they’ve cooled off from their record-breaking high of 115.7, the team is still leading the NBA with 114.7 points per 100 possessions - which is still good enough to be within a hair of all-time top ten team offensive ratings.
This team is still doing plenty of damage on the offensive end. As much as twitter likes to wring their hands over the finer points of coach Steve Kerr’s strategy and rotations, the offense has always worked pretty well. Right now, it’s dominant enough to win a game on it’s own.
But that defense...
But really, the identity of this team has always been couched within the context of its defense. This was highlighted perhaps by the recent return of Andrew Bogut. It was really adding him and Andre Iguodala that transformed the team from a fun rollicking adventure to the overwhelming force of nature that has driven fear and frustration into the hearts of opponents for the past few years. But that same dominance has been missing at times this season, inspiring random people around the league to pop off about it.
As Anthony Slater spells out for us, after the ugly loss to the lowly Phoenix Suns, the Warriors have been absolutely locking teams down over the past five game:
...100.6 rating (terrific in the year 2019) and opponent shooting percentages of 40.7 percent overall and 29 percent from 3.
That stretch includes their best two defensive performances of the season — an 85.4 rating in that 110-88 strangulation of the Thunder’s offense in Oklahoma City and Thursday night’s 88.1 rating, 112-89 lockdown of the Pacers.
For context, the top defense in the NBA this season is the 104.6 rating owned by the Milwaukee Bucks.
In addition to that beauty above from Jordan Bell, Kevin Durant had three blocks last night, DeMarcus Cousins had two. But beyond the box score numbers, you could see the Warriors’ defensive intensity all night. The Pacers, playing without their best offensive player in Victor Oladipo (who is out for the season with a knee injury) resorted to an all-out offensive attack not too dissimilar to what the Warriors employ.
But Golden State was ready from the outset. Switching freely, communicating well, and playing with the sort of individual focus that was once the hallmark of our league-best defense. Here’s Kerr last night, as transcribed by Anthony Slater:
“That’s the thing with defense,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “If you play hard defensively and you are getting stops, you don’t have to rush anything on offense — it’s going to come. And especially with our team when we get in transition with all these talented guys who can make plays. You just have to stay patient.”
As many of us have been saying all season - the Warriors aren’t necessarily worse this year than last, it’s just that they all clearly know they can give 80% effort and still come out of the regular season with the top seed... and even if they don’t, that probably doesn’t matter either.
What matters is that the best version of this Warriors team is still better than the best version of any other team. As long as they can find that when it matters, there’s no reason for Warriors’ fans to lose faith.
Warriors defensive rating this season: 108.7 (13th).— Monte Poole (@MontePooleNBCS) March 22, 2019
Before Mar 11: 109.2 (15th).
Since March 11: 100.6 (third).
Think they’re smelling the postseason.
I smell it too, Monte. Smells good. Real good!
And remember, it’s not too late to grab tickets to our fan night - the second-to-last home game of the regular season at Oracle.