After a brutal stretch of three games in four nights against the tough and elite Phoenix Suns and a San Antonio Spurs squad bent on taking advantage of an emotionally and physically spent team, the Warriors took the opportunity to recharge and reset.
The Magic provided the perfect platform for them to regain confidence, work on execution, and reestablish momentum.
Here are four things to like about the Warriors’ 126-95 demolition of the Magic.
Andrew Wiggins’ improved shooting and scoring efficiency
There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth when Andrew Wiggins was traded to the Warriors in that famous D’Angelo Russell trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves, one that netted a return of Wiggins and a top-three-protected 2021 pick that eventually turned into Jonathan Kuminga.
A huge part of all the commotion was Wiggins’ “exorbitant” contract. He is making approximately $31.6 million this year — an All-Star-level sum for a player who has historically fallen short of being considered an All-Star-level player.
Without Klay Thompson on the roster, Wiggins has had to play the role of the Warriors’ supplementary scorer and primary wing defender. He hasn’t been considered the Warriors’ second-best player — that distinction still clearly belongs to Draymond Green — but thriving within the role of being the third guy has made that contract a much easier pill to swallow.
Such a pill has gone down with perhaps the most ease during this current season, especially when you look at the shooting numbers he’s been putting up:
- 53.0% on twos (career high)
- 41.6% on threes (career high)
- 71.9% on free throws
- 56.5 eFG% (career high)
- 59.1% True Shooting (career high)
Wiggins had undoubtedly the best three-point shooting display of his season — and of his career — against the Magic, where he went 8-of-10 on threes, a personal record for most threes made in a single game.
Wiggins is having the best shooting season of his career, as well as efficiently scoring on a level never before seen from him.
“The biggest thing I’m seeing from Andrew is that he’s just catching and shooting,” Steve Kerr said. “He’s always been a pretty good 3-point shooter, but maybe more a little bit off the dribble, and the thing is he’s really gotten better with us when he’s open, he’s just catching and shooting. There’s a little better rhythm to it, but it’s a better rhythm to the offense when the ball doesn’t stop.”
Draymond Green’s screen setting
There are plenty of things to love about Draymond Green’s game.
His defensive prowess — both on the ball as a lockdown defender, and as an off-ball roamer and help-side defender as the low man — is arguably the most aesthetically pleasing aspect of his skill set.
His passing from all sorts of spots on the floor — from the low post in split action, on the high post when finding cutters off “Rip” screens, or topside while looking for cutters on slipped screens or baseline backdoor cuts — are eye popping.
His two-man partnership with Stephen Curry on dribble handoffs, pitch action, and on short roll actions born out of blitzes and traps on Curry is stuff of legend.
Add his exceptional screen setting to that list:
The best part of Green’s screens isn’t how hard and solid he’s been setting them, but how he sets the most appropriate kinds of screens according to how defenses are defending the pick-and-roll (and by extension, how defenses are defending Green himself). Knowing the Magic are dropping their bigs deep, Green sets a series of screens in transition — a step-up screen in the first clip, followed by a drag screen in the second clip — to punish the drop coverage.
His off-ball screens have been equally effective and potent:
Peep at Green setting a crushing down-screen on Gary Harris above, which consequently leaves Curry wide open for a three, all while the Magic inexplicably play a zone against the greatest shooter of all time. It was hard enough for Harris to complain to the official, resulting in a series of technical fouls that produced a 5-point possession.
Green is willing to do the dirty work by setting his shooters free, and is willing to tread that thin line between effective wipe-out screens and ones that are considered offensive fouls.
Jordan Poole’s passing
Jordan Poole didn’t have the most efficient performance against the Magic: 12 points on 15 shots isn’t going on his portfolio of notable scoring performances.
Another aspect of Poole’s game, however, took center stage. There has been a clear emphasis on improving his playmaking chops, a part of his overall attempt at slowing things down and trying to obtain a clear picture of his surroundings.
Such a clear picture involves seeing teammates who are open on cuts, seals, and in transition, where teammates are often trailing and parking themselves beyond the arc. Poole has been composed on such possessions; he lets things develop, allows teammates to go to their desired spots, and — more often than not — has made the correct passing reads.
Poole’s 4.2 assists per 36 minutes is on track to become the highest of his career. The other side of that coin: a byproduct of increased on-ball responsibility and decision making has been an uptick in turnovers — 3.0 per 36 minutes, also on track for a career high.
But the number of field goals Poole is assisting on is steadily increasing. His assist rate of 18.1% is a significant uptick from previous seasons. That number should go higher as his passing confidence ramps up even further, some warts are cleaned, and as the game slows down even more for him.
A potent set play for Stephen Curry
Out of halftime, Steve Kerr drew up a play for Stephen Curry that managed to get him a rare wide-open three point look. Out of “HORNS,” Curry runs off of an “out” screen and proceeds to “ghost” the screen up top, followed by sprinting to the weak-side corner. He then receives a “hammer” screen that wipes his man out, freeing him up for a wide-open look.
The Wiggins drive off the ghosted screen pulls the low man — in this case, Mo Bamba — away from the weak-side action, which leaves Curry’s defender on an island.
Here it is:
Curry got arguably the most open look of his season so far, but a split-second of hesitation, coupled with a rhythm dribble, may have caused him to overthink the shot, resulting in a miss.
That wasn’t the first time the Warriors unleashed the play. They previously ran it twice against the Suns, with Chris Chiozza playing the part of the ball handler in the first instance, and Wiggins handling the ball the second time around — an adjustment born out of Chiozza’s inability to make the kick-out pass to Curry due to his small stature.
One of the more quirky statistical anomalies this season has been Curry’s success rate on threes with plenty of breathing room. Combining threes that are considered “open” (closest defender 4-6 feet away) with those that are considered “wide open” (closest defender more than 6 feet away), Curry is shooting *only* 38.1% on such shots, per NBA.com.
“Open shots are weird because it does affect your timing when you’re surprised how open you are,” Curry said. “That was even tougher because it was the first possession out of halftime, first touch. It almost went in.”