Warriors in the Playoffs? A peek into April
By: Scott Horlbeck/@Scott_Horlbeck
Alright, be honest – the Warriors have made the playoffs once (2006) in the last 18 years and are currently two games out (Memphis) of having home court in the West. DON’T TELL ME YOU HAVEN’T THOUGHT ABOUT THE PLAYOFFS!!!!!
Sorry for yelling, I just found of my dog has been posing as my girlfriend for the past 14 months so I’m a little emotionally unstable right now.
According to John Hollinger’s NBA Playoff Odds, the Warriors have a 95.7 percent change of making the playoffs this year. (The Lakers are hovering around 18.2 in case you’re having a bad day) So unless Steph Curry sprains his ankle, then lands teeth first in David Lee’s bad elbow, this dubs team is heading to the playoffs.
Now, unlike the regular season where the Nick Young’s and Jordan Crawford’s of the world can get by pulling up for three on a 4-on-1 fast break, the playoffs are an entirely different animal. In the playoffs, each possession becomes more and more important with each tick of the clock. The game slows and an offensive rebound at the end of the game can be the difference between a win and a loss. Everything is heightened in the playoffs, with added consequence to the even the smallest of mistakes.
To me, succeeding in the playoffs comes down to three things – defense, rebounding, and your ability to get easy baskets at the end of a game. Having said that, let’s take a look at how the Warriors measure up in those three categories.
The Warriors are allowing 99.4 points per game, which ranks 21st in the NBA. And while this isn’t a terrible number, it still worries me a bit considering only two of the other 15 playoff contenders are allowing more (Denver and Houston). But this is a perfect example of what I was talking about earlier. Think about this for a second…of the top 20 defensive teams in the NBA per “allowed points per game,” 15 of those 20 should make the playoffs. That’s not a coincidence.
The Warriors do rank sixth in “pace” at 96.3 possessions per game, which could be a reason for the high number of points they’re allowing, due to an increased number of possession in their games. A more encouraging number for the Warriors however, is where they rank in “defensive efficiency,” – which is the total number of points a team allows per 100 possessions. The Warriors rank 11th here.
Bottom line: Depending on the return (and basketball shape/effectiveness) of Andrew Bogut, the Warriors don’t exactly have a rim protector. Though Lee and Carl Landry are both great rebounders, neither cause opponents to alter shots a la Serge Ibaka or 2009 Dwight Howard. And while Festus Ezili is a big body, he’s only averaging 1.1 blocks per game and is more of a foul-waiting-to-happen at this point. Result, rebounding becomes even more important come playoff time.
Before I wrote this piece, I was not aware of this statistic. I just wanted to clarify that in case you thought I was doing the whole “here’s-something-I-bet-you-didn’t-know” obnoxious writer thing. Okay? Cool.
The Warriors are LEADING THE NBA IN “DEFENSE REBOUNDING RATE” AND ARE 4TH IN THE NBA IN REBOUNDS PER GAME. Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaattttttttt???????????????????????????? That’s right. You could make a case the Golden State Warriors, of Oakland California, are one of the best rebounding teams in the NBA. In fact, you could go as far as saying it’s one of their STRENGTHS. How you like them apples Matt Damon???
This is something that makes the Warriors a team NO ONE wants to see in the playoffs. Not only do they shoot the s–t out of the ball, they can rebound! And the best time for a shooter to get free for a three – off an offensive rebound!!! I’m talking to you Klay and Steph.
Bottom Line: Rebounding does so much for a team. It limits your opponent to only one shot per possession, provides your team with additional shots per possession, frees up our shooters, and simply puts pressure on the opposing team (foul trouble, etc) . If the Warriors are going to succeed in the playoffs, they HAVE to rebound at a high rate.
This may seem like kind of a weird one, but think about the number of times you’ve seen a team down two with 40 seconds left that ended up taking a 35 footer as the shot clock expired. A lot right? Teams find themselves in this situation all the time, and come April, it will be a lot more. Having the ability to get easy baskets near the end of a game can be the difference between winning and losing a series.
Luckily for the Warriors, I think they have that ability.
The Steph Curry/David Lee pick-and-roll is probably the go-to play for the Warriors in a down-two-with-40-seconds-left situation. Let’s break it down. Because Steph is such a good shooter, his defender is forced to go above the screen – making the simple pick-and-roll absolutely lethal in this case. Once that happens, David Lee’s defender is forced to make a decision. He either can either stay with Steph, who’s defender is at his back, or leave him and scramble back to Lee. If he leaves, Steph has a live dribble at the free throw line, with either a floater or 15-foot jumper on the way. If he stays (smart move), Steph swings it to Lee for his patented 17-foot elbow jumper (no pun intended). And let’s not forget Klay, who’s hovering around the three like one of the Real Housewives at an open bar.
Bottom line: The Curry/Lee pick-and-roll is as deadly a two-man play as any in the NBA. It has thousands of options, making it a nightmare to guard. All in all, I’d like my chances as a Warriors fan if I saw Steph calling over Lee down two with 40 seconds on the clock.