After a somewhat bumpy 4-2 start to the season, the Golden State Warriors appear to have found their footing.
With a 120-83 over a short-handed Indiana Pacers team on Monday night, the Warriors improved to 12-2 on the season and are on an eight-game winning streak.
After signing Kevin Durant in free agency, most people expected the Warriors to go through a transition period. However, if this is the transition period — or the transition period is already over — the Warriors look as good as advertised.
They lead the NBA in offensive rating, scoring 113.8 points per 100 possessions, two points better than the next-best team. They lead the NBA in effective field goal percentage (weighted for three-pointers) and in assist percentage (number of field goals that come from assists) with 71.6%, six points better than the second-place team.
Over their eight-game win streak, they’re scoring 120.6 points per game on 50% shooting, 41% from three. They have scored over 110 points 10 times this season and over 120 points eight times.
These Warriors are already an offensive juggernaut. For all of the offseason talk about sacrificing shots with Durant on board, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Durant are averaging 17.8, 16.7, and 17.0 field goal attempts per game, respectively, all within three shots of their respective averages last season.
Though 40% of their starting lineup is new to the team (Durant and Zaza Pachulia), there’s already a natural chemistry. The play below appears to be a set play, and through the natural progression of it, they spread the Celtics thin until someone is open. In this case, it was Draymond Green.
Amazingly, Warriors not named Kevin Durant are struggling to shoot the ball, relative to their career percentages. Both Curry and Thompson are well below their career averages from three-point range, and Green is hitting just 31.9% of his threes. However, those percentages have climbed over the course of this winning streak, giving a glimpse at what the Warriors might look like when they’re firing on all cylinders.
Furthermore, the Warriors revamped “Death Lineup,” with Green at center and Durant replacing Harrison Barnes, has looked as fearsome as imagined. In 68 total minutes this season, the Warriors’ second-most played lineup, they have an offensive rating of 129.7 and defensive rating of 98.8, five points better than their overall mark. They’re outscoring opponents by 30 points per 100 possessions.
The Warriors need not overthink their offence with this lineup. The spread pick-and-roll attack, with Durant and Thompson flanking the wings is impossible to defend.
How, exactly, the Bucks could have defended this better is unclear. The Bucks guards stay attached, as they should to Curry and Thompson. Giannis Antetokounmpo leaves Durant to defend Green rolling to the basket. Jabari Parker, on Andre Iguodala, could have slid over to save Antetokounmpo, but that likely would have meant conceding a layup to Iguodala.
The Warriors aren’t perfect. As expected, their defence has suffered this season without Andrew Bogut. They’re currently giving up 103.6 points per 100 possessions, 15th in the league. Last year, they had the sixth best defence in the league. Likewise, they’re getting beaten on the boards, collecting just 49.5% of available rebounds, perhaps another effect of Bogut’s absence.
But the Warriors might not need to be perfect. Durant adds even more length to an already-rangy group, and they have been using the Death Lineup more this season, a group that forces 18 turnovers per 48 minutes, most of any of the Warriors’ main lineups.
Watch the Warriors deflate the Celtics in 25 seconds below. If the Warriors buckle down and create turnovers, their offence is too devastating for anybody to hang with:
As SB Nation’s Paul Flannery wrote, the Warriors’ usual recovery defence has slipped — the seamless switches, hustle plays, etc. are missing. But that’s emblematic of a team that knows it can outscore anyone. Steve Kerr admitted this much to Flannery.
“I think the biggest challenge for our guys is to keep the intensity for 48 minutes. They tend to feel like they can outscore people, which they can, but it’s not a very good recipe for success against good teams and in the playoffs. We’ve got to get better defensively. We know that.”
Therein lies what’s scary about the Warriors already. They have regressed in several areas, need to improve in others, and their offence isn’t completely humming yet, given that players like Thompson and Green have started the season slowly. Yet here they are, with the second best record in the league.
If this is the adjustment period we expected to see from the NBA’s newest super-team, then the rest of the league might be in trouble.
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