With basketball coverage continuing to cross into the soap opera territory of professional wrestling, the narratives picked up by fans and media can overwhelm the actual game. As the Warriors rolled out a potent offensive attack, the storyline somehow coming in was about Durant’s lack of shot attempts.
As Kevin Durant said about the game two snafu, “[o]ur focus has been on point since late March, with the exception of like six minutes last game.” Last night was the cold splash of water on the weary faces of a league that’s spent years watching the Warriors be really, really good.
Ok, Durant’s “six minutes” estimate may be a bit short - after all, this is a team that lost to the Dallas Mavericks by 35 points on March 23rd - but the point is a valid reminder of what people are choosing to see in Golden State, as compared to how the historical inertia should define this team.
Do you see a team that coughed up the largest comeback to the Los Angeles Clippers by giving up 85 points in the second half of game two? Or do you see a well-balanced team of veteran all stars, led by two of the best players in the league? We may have been wrong with our sweep predictions, but as elucidated by last night’s 27 points victory, the Warriors are just a higher tier of basketball team.
“I’m Kevin Durant,” and the players that make the team work
While this team prides itself on their egalitarian game planning, everything starts with our top talent. The fact that Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, and Draymond Green are on this team is really the strongest corollary factor for why the Warriors are so elite.
Durant (27.3 points per game) and Curry (29.3) are driving most of the scoring against the Clippers in this series so far. Not remarkable, given who these guys are. But take a moment to appreciate how Kerr has maximized the teams scoring efficiency. The Warriors lead the playoffs with scoring efficiency (both eFG and TS%), while posting an assist percentage of over 71% (again, tops in the playoffs). This has long been Kerr’s mantra and Durant and Curry are the best at toeing the line between unselfishness and inflicting their own brand of lethal scoring.
When it all comes together, it sets up an irrepressible attack of the basket from all over the court.
no love for the rim last night pic.twitter.com/cBm5yZrJT0— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) April 19, 2019
No, Patrick Beverley isn’t in Durant’s head. Just like the overhyped Fat Jimmy defense of Matthew Dellavedova, the broader narrative seems to have lost track of just how bad these Clippers are getting trounced by the Warriors offense. Here’s Zach Harper comparing the series offense to the Warriors regular season (where they averaged around 115 points per 100 possessions):
In Game 3, Beverley defended Durant on 21 possessions, according to Second Spectrum. Durant went 6-of-7 from the field for 13 points, and the Warriors scored 28 points (133.3 points per 100 possessions). That’s a grand total of 132 points on 105 possessions (125.7 offensive rating) with KD scoring 36 points on 14-of-19 shooting (73.6 percent).
All the pieces around the edges are coming together
Stephen Curry’s rebounding, and Draymond Green’s assists are two “secondary” aspects of players that can be easily overshadowed by their more dominant skill sets. Green leads the team with an average of 8.7 assists per game, and he had 10 last night. Curry’s seven rebounds per game is second only to Andrew Bogut. In his first game back as a starter for the Warriors in the playoffs since 2016 the Aussie was phenomenal last night with 14 rebounds, eight points, and five assists in 25 superb minutes.
And speaking of the Center rotation, Kevon Looney chipped in 10 points on just seven shot attempts, and played an impactful 17 minutes of utilitarian defense.
Saw this play last night and immediately saved it. Without KD on the floor, the Warriors were able to execute that famous action for Curry on the strong-side wing.— Shane Young (@YoungNBA) April 19, 2019
But, with a wrinkle. Curry’s impact just by moving a few feet: pic.twitter.com/ebwDj3xlsf
Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell, two players that torched the Warriors in the game two loss were well contained - just 16 and 15 points on the night, respectively. Some of that was adjustments from Warriors players and coaching staff, but this is exactly the sort of defensive switch that many of the faithful have been waiting to see.
Two more wins and Golden State can broach the next stage of their journey towards a threepeat. Everything else is just noise.