You can look at the Golden State Warriors’ record of 21-10 in one of two ways. On one hand, the Warriors are sound and steady, only a half a game out of first in the West with 52 games remaining to fix flaws and to build good habits to take into the postseason.
On the other hand, at 21-10 with four active all stars in the starting lineup, the Warriors are underachieving. They have some flaws within that are getting harder to ignore and easier to exploit. In the interest of context, both views are valid.
Yes, the Warriors are in a good spot with a half a game out of first place considering that they survived the “incident” and Stephen Curry’s groin injury that kept him out for three weeks. The Warriors are also underachieving so far in the season, and that’s fine.
When they “underachieved” with at 58-24 finish last season, the Warriors, as expected won the title. Will that be the same outcome in June? Regardless of presumptions and projections, it still remains to be seen. Each season has its different set of challenges and circumstances.
Again, this mission is hard
As I stated in a previous edition, the Warriors are chasing that elusive three peat is and this year is their most challenging. Other teams are catching up. Not to mention that the Warriors are also adjusting to new players on the roster.
Stephen Curry mentioned the learning curve, and consistency in terms of playing their best basketball to the Mercury News’ Mark Medina during a practice last week.
“Some of these conversations are great when you are not playing your best basketball at 19-10 and have opportunities to get better,” Curry says.
“You have to keep the right perspective in terms of the big picture. It’s not all bad. We understand the level we hold ourselves to. We haven’t gotten there yet consistently.”
To get the consistency that they desire, the Warriors must find a way to battle their own malaise and make developing good habits their focus. In this edition of “Town Business”, it’s all about what the Warriors can do to lock in and stay that way.
It Starts With Defense
Currently, the Warriors rank 15th in the league in defensive rating (108.2), a far cry from their second place ranking two seasons ago. Included in their defensive struggles, the Warriors rank:
17th in second chance points allowed (13.7)
23rd in fast break points allowed (14.7)
20th in points in the paint allowed (49.6)
Consequently, the Warriors defensive flaws are the source of most of their blown leads and ugly losses this season. The biggest source of the Warriors defensive struggles have been in the lane where the lack of rim protection isn’t really anything new.
However, the Warriors have always compensated with players willing to help on the boards and challenge for blocks. Due to lineup fluctuations at the 5, the help in the paint hasn’t really been a presence so far. The Warriors must compensate the lack of rim protection with someone like Draymond Green, Andre Igoudala and even Kevin Durant being able to help the bigs defend in mismatches. Also, the team must make an effort become more aggressive in rebounding, and chasing after 50/50 balls.
Picking up the Pace
For a team that is so top-heavy and full of fire power, most of the Warriors underachievement is blatant in pace. Granted, the Warriors played with a considerable slow pace in Green’s absence. Currently, the team ranks 11th in the league in pace. More often than not, Green is the catalyst in dictating the pace of the team.
Notice when either an opponent score or misses. When an opponent scores, look at Green and how he snatches the ball out of the net. On a miss, Green snag a board and the team hustles in transition for the easy bucket. The Warrior’s missed this in the games that Green was out. As Green continues to get his rhythm and flow back, expect the Warriors to quicken the pace in transition.
With the exception of his record setting performance against the Chicago Bulls a month ago, Klay Thompson hasn’t shot the ball well this season. In fact, he’s been in a prolonged slump. He is forcing the issue by jacking up a bunch of shots. In the previous seven games, Thompson has taken 137 shots. That’s four more than Curry (133) and 18 more than Durant (119). It wouldn’t be much of a problem if Thompson was efficient with these shots. Despite leading the league in field goal attempts, Thompson is shooting 44.9 percent from the field-which is his lowest field goal percentage since Steve Kerr took over as coach four years ago.
Granted, “shooters shoot” but it’s getting to be a detriment to the offense. According to NBC Sports Bay Area’s Monte Poole, the Warriors aren’t looking for Durant enough. Poole cites the Sacramento game as an example of Thompson’s shot selection and struggles and their effect on the team.
“Before Durant’s pivotal scoring in the fourth quarter, Thompson had missed four more shots than KD had taken”, Poole Writes. ” Empty possessions were piling up, keeping the Kings in the game. When empty possessions pile up, almost any opponent can stay in the game, even against the mighty Warriors.”
Thompson, may need to cut back on the attempts in order to get Durant involved easy and often as well as making sure others stay engaged.
For his fourth quarter take over against Sacramento, Kevin Durant is Town’s Finest for week 6. Durant scored 13 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter to help the Warriors avoid a collapse. The scoring in of itself wasn’t the most impressive. What stood out in this game to me was Durant’s awareness. Knowing that Sacramento was in the penalty, Durant began to draw contact and systematically beat the Kings at the stripe.