Let’s be honest — the last game of the regular season didn’t matter one single bit. There was nothing to be gained from a win or a loss, and no one should bat an eye over this game — except maybe those few people who make a big deal out of win-loss records, perhaps still enamored with the 2016 regular season during which the Warriors won 73 games and were crowned the kings of the NBA’s regular season.
Of course, the Warriors failed to win the championship that year. Say whatever you want about the circumstances surrounding that NBA Finals series, but the history books will forever consider that a failed attempt at winning a championship.
If there was one very important lesson the Warriors learned from that fiasco, it was this — long-term health is ultimately more important. The Warriors are capable of sleepwalking their way towards at least the number 2 seed in the playoffs, as evidenced by last season’s grind. What’s more important is that they turn up the intensity and the effort when it really matters.
This was the rationale behind resting one half of the Warriors’ All-Star lineup against the New Orleans Pelicans, and then resting the other half against the Memphis Grizzlies. Although that plan of action almost ventured into full-disaster territory — Stephen Curry’s rolled ankle causing a lot of Warriors’ fans hearts to skip a beat — the team dodged a bullet when the injury turned out to be mild and not as drastic as it appeared to be.
The Warriors opted to lock away Curry until Game 1 of the first round. Draymond Green and DeMarcus Cousins were also rested, and Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson were played in the first half of the game against the Grizzlies.
Suffice to say, the Warriors ran into a team who couldn’t miss from three-point range. Coupled with a lackluster defensive effort, and they proceeded to lose their second regular season finale in a row.
It doesn’t matter though — everyone is healthy and ready to go for another shot at the Larry O’Brien trophy.
In lieu of a traditional breakdown of a game that didn’t matter, I was planning to break down a few notable stats that painted the picture of the Warriors’ roller coaster of a regular season, as well as stats that are indicative of the kind of form they are displaying going into the playoffs. But Anthony Slater of The Athletic beat me to it, and he did a much better job — better than anything that I could’ve produced.
So I’m opting to quote a few of those stats presented by Slater, with a bit of my own thoughts on them and how it will affect their playoff run.
Stephen Curry and Draymond Green are +521 on the floor together
Here are Slater’s thoughts on this jaw-dropping stat:
This season, Green played 443 minutes without Curry on the floor. In them, the Warriors offensive rating was 102.6. They were a -55. But, in his 1,617 minutes paired with Curry, the Warriors were a +521, pumping out a 123.6 offensive rating, scoring an absurd 4,220 points on 3,415 possessions, per NBAwowy.com. Now, basically every Green minute is alongside Curry. Since Kerr made the change, they’ve played only 42 apart and a 25-minute chunk of that was when Curry rested during a recent loss to the Mavericks. So that’s 42 minutes apart and 422 together during the recent late-season stretch that flipped the vibe of this team. In those 422 minutes, check out these numbers: 126.1 offensive rating, 101.6 defensive rating, a +214. Yeah, I expect that sub-pattern to remain in the playoffs.
I second Slater’s assessment — the Curry and Green pairing is gold for the Warriors, and I fully expect Steve Kerr to close out the first and third quarters of playoff games with that duo on the floor together.
It’s no surprise that two of the Warriors’ rock-solid foundations have meshed so well on the floor. Before the Curry/Durant pick-and-roll was introduced to strike fear into opposing defenses, there was the Curry/Green pick-and-roll, which doesn’t sound as scary, but is nevertheless as effective and as deadly. A Green on the short roll is one of the best decision makers and playmakers in the league, and it has often burned defenders who are left on an island to defend a virtual 2-on-1 situation.
Furthermore, Green’s vision and playmaking meshes much better with Curry than it does with Durant. That’s not to say that Green and Durant are incompatible on the floor together — but Green’s skillset complements Curry’s better than Durant’s, who has become some sort of a hybrid scorer/playmaking forward; there is a bit of an overlap there with Green in terms of playmaking.
It’ll be interesting to see just how much damage this duo can do in the playoffs.
The team’s defensive rating: 108.3
Here are Slater’s thoughts:
Zoom out, strip away the 82-game roller-coaster context and that defensive rating — 108.3, 11th in the NBA — is pretty ugly. But it was much worse a couple months back. At one point in early March, the Warriors were the 16th-ranked defense, that rating tipping close to 110. But, again, things changed after that Suns game. The Warriors have played 15 games since. In them, they have a cumulative 103.6 defensive rating, higher than only the Jazz (102.1) during that stretch.
Last year, the Warriors finished the regular season with a defensive rating of 106.8, ranked 11th in the league. Of course, the Warriors would proceed to win the title later on that season, becoming the first team since the 2000-01 Los Angeles Lakers to have won a title while finishing outside of the top ten in defensive rating during the regular season.
They were able to accomplish such a feat by ramping up their defense during the playoffs; they finished with a defensive rating of 101.7, which led all playoff teams.
That trend is looking like it’s going to continue this season. With the Warriors improving their defensive rating from as low as 16th to where they were placed last year at 11th, the Warriors have proven that they can turn on the switch when they need to, which is a sign of good things to come.
The Hamptons 5 are +123 this season
Here are Slater’s thoughts:
This season started a bit like last season. With the stakes lowered, their invincibility again disappeared. Through the end of December, in 48 minutes together, the Hamptons 5 had actually been outscored by four points. But look, by month, what’s happened since: +37 in 63 January minutes, +42 in 34 February minutes, +46 in 31 March minutes and +2 in only two April minutes. So, cumulatively, that’s a +123 in 178 minutes this season.
Last season, the Hamptons 5 of Curry, Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Durant, and Green showed small cracks in their armor of invincibility. As Slater initially mentions in his article, the lineup outscored opponents by a paltry 22 points during all of last regular season.
The trend continued during the first half of this season, and it was looking like the Hamptons 5 might’ve run its course of dominance. But as any rational Warriors fan would expect, the team turned on the switch when it needed to — and now, they have outscored their opponents by +123, reverting back to their identity as the deadliest lineup in the NBA.
The Hamptons 5 may very well have been “figured out” by some teams, but that still doesn’t mean that they can be stopped dead in their tracks. The lineup has too much talent, too much basketball IQ, and too much experience to completely fold under pressure. And when the time comes that the Warriors need to close out playoff games, then there is no other 5-man squad that can be trusted to complete the job.
Slater listed down a couple more stats that were also interesting, such as the fact that Durant is currently shooting 54.8 percent on mid-range jumpers — a career-high. Furthermore, from 15-19 feet, Durant is shooting at a rate of 56.8 percent, which is insane!
Slater also mentioned that DeMarcus Cousins is currently a +69 since March 1, which is incredible given the fact that he struggled to incorporate himself initially with the Warriors after returning from his long rehabilitation process. This could be a great sign for Cousins’ prospects as a contributor in the playoffs.
Slater has several more interesting stats in his article. If you’re able to, I recommend giving it a look over — it’s a pretty good read.
The playoff matchups are now determined, and the Warriors are officially facing the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round. While the Clippers are, on paper, a team the Warriors can sweep, they are far from being pushovers, with promising rookies such as Landry Shamet and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and the deadly bench pick-and-roll duo of Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell.
Will the Clippers have a decent chance at a monumental upset over the Warriors? Most likely not. But crazier things have happened before, and the Warriors can’t afford to lose focus even for a just a tiny bit.
The real season starts now. Let’s get it on.
Eighty-two games down, 16 wins to go.
Stay Golden, Dub Nation.