When it comes to the on-court exploits of the Golden State Warriors, nothing is surprising anymore.
Not even scoring 92 points at halftime. Setting the record for made 3-pointers with two different teams is even “meh” at this point. So, an engaged and “locked in” Warriors squad putting up 51 points in a quarter isn’t either shocking or surprising.
It is, however impressive and most of all, intriguing. In the game’s aftermath, all I could could do is think about how this happened. How did the Warriors, playing against the league’s leader in perimeter defense managed to get so many open looks. Here are a few of my observations
No Answer for the Warriors’ Low Post Split
The Warriors ran a steady amount of low post splits at the Nuggets’ defense for most of the game. What made the split so effective was the fact that the screener commanded double teams.
At the 1:05 mark, notice Kevon Looney after he passes to Kevin Durant in the post. He will set an up screen on the same side of the floor. The screen put the pressure on Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic to defend. As Looney set the screen, Jokic didn’t bother to press Thompson and contest. As a result, Thompson drilled an open three.
At the 50 second mark, Durant was able to make a cross court pass to Curry as Thompson draws the attention of three Nuggets off the screen. Curry shakes the defender with a high brow fake and splash.
Lost In The Sauce
Golden State’s offense thrives off of chaos and confusion, and like I said in a recent column, the confusion begins with Curry. Defenders are often obsessed with getting the ball out of Curry’s hands and stopping him that they forget about the damage he is capable of doing off of the ball.
At 25 seconds, notice how Denver thought they had the stop after Curry received the dribble hand off from Looney. Jokic and Murray double. Okay. Looks solid. But what happens when Curry passes out of the double team? Murray lost Curry. Why was he looking at Looney? Meanwhile, Curry relocates to the corner and splashes another 3.
If it wasn’t Denver’s inability to guard the low post splits that caused this barrage by the Warriors, it was the fact that Denver was caught slipping on defense, and the Warriors’ opportunistic offense capitalized. No wonder Golden State popped a franchise record 10 3-pointers in a quarter. In their last meeting, three months ago, the Warriors shot 24 percent from 3. Denver did a great job running Curry and Thompson off the line and making them work for the 3s that they did get.
Denver didn’t keep that same focus and that same energy three nights ago and paid for it.
Defense into Offense
What most people overlook about the Warriors is their ability to defend. When the Warriors are playing solid defense by sealing off passing lanes or crowding the paint, they get easy buckets in transition. This season, it’s been a war of attrition for the Warriors in the paint. Despite leading the league in blocks, opposing offenses have made it their purpose to attack the paint, and it’s been successful. Against Milwaukee earlier in the season, the Warriors surrendered 84 points in the paint. After that game, the Warriors surrendered 62 to the Nets.
Obviously, the Warriors knew that they had to contain Jokic, and they did. The Warriors’ defense doubled Jokic and crashed the boards. Despite having only 9 fast break points, the Warriors continued to hustle in transition.
When engaged, the Warriors are nearly unbeatable. In fact, quite a few of their 14 losses were a result of the Warriors beating themselves by lapses in intensity and focus. The following night, the Warriors erased a 17 point deficit to beat the New Orleans Pelicans on the second leg of a back-to-back. They are gaining momentum and an all-star center.
Nothing surprising at all.