Welcome to Warriors Weekly as the Dubs get the closest they have been to full strength for the biggest game of their regular season.
The Week that Was:
After last week’s disappointments in Denver and Detroit, the Warriors rebounded with an incredibly dominant series of performances.
They took the Cavs out so thoroughly that it likely played a part in Cleveland shockingly firing coach David Blatt on Friday and followed that up by roasting the Bulls at the United Center.
Friday marked the Warriors’ return to Oracle and Steve Kerr’s return to the sideline in a somewhat strange but successful win over the Pacers to set the stage for another massive contest.
Stephen Curry Above the Break Three Update: Stephen Curry has made 172 above the break three pointers this year, more than two teams. Curry’s 44.8% shooting from there is better than every NBA team from mid-range and all but three teams in the paint (non-restricted area) without even accounting for the fact that 3 > 2.
Stephen Curry Total Three Pointers Update: After Friday’s barrage, Stephen Curry has made 204 three pointers on the season, tied for the 37th-most in NBA history despite only playing in 42 games (44 team games). He also tied Brent Barry for 26th all-time in made threes in a career with 1,395 in almost exactly half as many games.
The Soapbox: The Spurs
Instead of previewing the game itself (especially considering Pop is sitting Tim Duncan), I wanted to give some larger context on the Spurs and their remarkable first half of the season.
The Spurs are outscoring opponents by a margin that would be the best in NBA history has been out there but that can be discounted by the fact that it is a long season and that kind of aberration usually resolves with more time. However, the Spurs also have the best point differential of any team through the first 44 games of their season (+638, ahead of the 1971-72 Lakers). The current Warriors team is 7th on that list and last year’s team is 10th, for reference.
Unlike previous seasons, San Antonio has been able to keep a reliable starting lineup. The Parker/Green/Leonard/Aldridge/Duncan unit has played 453 minutes together in 30 games, more than double Golden State’s most-played five-man quintet. Neither team’s starters have been their most successful grouping as the Warriors have the “death lineup” and the Spurs have a few dangerous combinations, most notably the starters with Manu instead of Danny Green which has outscored opponents by 23.5 points per 100 possessions so far this season.
Having Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard on the same team has fueled a truly remarkable Spurs defense, currently allowing just 96.1 points per 100 possessions, an insane five points better than the Warriors’ #1 defense last season at this time. One thing that makes them truly special is that opponents simply do not get to the line against them- the Spurs are allowing the second-lowest free throw attempt rate in for an elite defense in the last 30 years. Golden State is not particularly good at drawing fouls but that is insane all the same.
One huge difference between these teams that could matter more in a playoff series is the bench construction. Each team has a ton of talent but the Spurs are actually more dangerous offensively with their second unit than with their starters while the Warriors go strongly the other direction. It will be a fascinating clash of styles when Patty Mills, Manu Ginobili, Kyle Anderson, Boris Diaw (or their giant Boban Marjanovic) and David West face off with Livingston, Barbosa, Iguodala, Barnes and Ezeli.
The other amazing thing about the Spurs is that they have dominated the league like few teams ever at this point despite giving their starters plenty of rest. Only Kawhi Leonard plays more than 30 minutes per game and just two players have appeared in every San Antonio game this year (Danny Green and Patty Mills). The Warriors have done a pretty good job of keeping their core rested but the Spurs operate at a different level.
As we roll through the season towards a seemingly inevitable Western Conference Finals, take some time and watch the Spurs because we as NBA fans are lucky enough to have two all-time teams playing right now.
The Week to Come:
The Spurs and everything else.
After Monday, the Warriors get to stay home for a semi-revenge game against the Mavericks then head out for a quickie road trip (three games, five days) that starts in Philly and continues in New York on the tail end of a back-to-back.
I predicted a loss last week. I will not now. 4-0.