Ultimately the Golden State Warriors succumbed to the human flaw that is fatigue and failed to make NBA history. On the second night of a back-to-back, having arrived late at night, the presumably sleep deprived Warriors team wasn’t quite as alert as they’ve previously been during their 10-game winning streak. As the game progressed, the legs gave in a little, shots were rimming out and bad decision led to turnovers. The Brooklyn Nets might have ended the Warriors’ longest winning streak since 1975, but that doesn’t take anything away from the impressive accomplishment. A lot of people didn’t hesitate to jump onboard on the #FullSquad bandwagon, but what sparked this run?
The Return of Andre Iguodala
To claim that Iguodala’s return from injury had nothing to do with this run would be preposterous. In the 12-game stretch during which Iguodala was injured, the Warriors went 5-7 and struggled defensively. In his absence the Warriors’ defensive rating went down to 105 and they had a negative net rating (via NBA.com). This would put their defense at 22nd in the league, tied with the Los Angeles Lakers. In the 13 games that Iguodala has played in since his return, the defensive rating is 94.5, a figure which would rank second in the league, way ahead of the Chicago Bulls and just behind the Indiana Pacers. Only Stephen Curry has a better on/off net rating than Iguodala this season (via 82games.com). His impact on the defensive end is unquestionable.
The ball movement also improves when Iguodala is on the court, and the Warriors’ assist ratio has gone up since his return. Having Iguodala on the floor together with Curry allows Steph to play off the ball. Teams often have to chase Klay Thompson off screens, and when Curry joins him it can really spice up the offense, as Iguodala is more than capable of reading plays and picking out the right pass. This play against the Washington Wizards is a perfect example:
Curry hands off the ball to Iguodala, who patiently waits for the play to develop. Curry sets a little cross-screen for Thompson, forcing the switch, and Klay then cuts to the right wing, while Steph goes to the opposite wing. Bogut gets away with a little bit of a moving screen on Thompson’s man and quickly runs to the basket. Take a look at the screen shot below.
All this off-ball movement has already confused the Wizards’ defense. As Bogut steps out to screen Thompson’s man, Gortat takes his eyes of the ball handler and momentarily loses Bogut, allowing Iggy to deliver the entry pass over the top. When Iguodala is the ball handler, the Warriors can use Curry and Thompson as decoys on certain plays to set up their bigs.
Even though his basic stats in the box score are not mind-blowing, Iguodala’s return is one of the major reasons for this successful run.
Lee was absolutely terrific and instrumental to the 10-game winning streak. During the run, Lee put up 22.6 points and 10.4 rebounds per game, while also shooting 61.4 percent from the field. Lee is pretty much the only consistent scoring threat the Warriors have in the post and he has been great. He ranks 24th in the league in points per play on post-ups and is shooting over 50 percent on those plays (via Synergy). This little hook shot below is something we have seen a whole lot of, especially when the Warriors miss a couple of jumpers and need to see the ball going through the net again.
It’s a very hard move to stop. Lee is comfortable using his right hand for hook shots as well, so he often starts going to his right hand before spinning out of the double-team for a lefty bank shot. Lee gets a lot of criticism for his defense, but he has actually made some decent plays defensively and not been all that bad during this run.
Oh, and he also invented #FullSquad.
Andrew Bogut, the unsung hero
I don’t feel like Bogut gets enough credit. He gets no plays called for him, yet plays hard all the time. His help defense has been great during this run and he is just a very intelligent player. This defensive play below against the Brooklyn Nets was one of my favorite plays of that game, and it sums up why the defensive tandem of Bogut and Iguodala is so important for the Dubs.
Iguodala gives up the baseline drive to Johnson, at which point Bogut has really not even looked at his own man for around five seconds. He remains in a position to come over and help, which forces Johnson to give the ball to the cutting Blatche. Iguodala comes up with a great strip and once Blatche recovers the ball, Bogut is there for the rejection. Just a beautiful defensive play.
This part of Bogut’s defense is crucial for the Warriors, but he sometimes has a tendency to fall asleep on his man a little, especially when guarding a stretch-four in small lineups. We saw this against the Denver Nuggets, as Bogut gave up a ton of space when he was guarding Darrell Arthur, who made him pay by knocking down open jumpers.
Bogut doesn’t get many touches, but he sometimes holds the ball and takes a couple of dribbles around the right elbow area. He does a great job distributing the ball from that position and often finds his teammates on backdoor cuts. This generally happens a couple of times each game and often catches defenses off-guard.
You can’t take anything away from the winning streak, especially considering the fact that seven out of the ten games were on the road and the last six were all part of a single road trip. The Warriors took down the reigning champions, beat the Clippers in a close one and blew out the surprisingly good Phoenix Suns. Still, only four out of the ten opponents were winning teams and that helped.
All stats and performances aside, it feels as though the inception of #FullSquad has given the Dubs a boost aswell. It became a catch phrase around the league and the players seem to have bought into the hype.
All in all, the streak was great for Golden State. Before the team went on this run, there was a lot of concern surrounding the Warriors and perhaps even a little bit of panic among some fans. Earning the temporary title of “the hottest team in the NBA” has injected some confidence and there are a lot of positive things to build upon moving forward.
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