Welcome to Warriors Weekly following a more normal seven days.
The Week that Was:
After shockingly losing to the Lakers last Sunday, the Warriors rebounding had to be expected.
The conclusion of the back-to-back against Orlando was less stirring (though they played pretty well) but a strong win over the Jazz marked a clearer indication that the team had righted the ship.
Friday’s win over Portland was their first true dominating performance in a while, arguably their best since the revenge win over the Mavericks in late January. Curry and Klay had strong games on the same night while the team only turned the ball over eight times. Also, the two teams broke the NBA record for combined made threes in a game with 37.
Phoenix came in on Saturday and nearly pulled off the most shocking win of the season behind huge performances from Brandon Knight and Alex Len but a furious fourth quarter comeback secured a 4-0 week for the Dubs.
Crazy Warriors Stat of the Week:
Klay Thompson has 207 made threes this season, already tied for 34th-most all-time. He is on pace for 261, a number only surpassed by three men in the history of the league.
As of this writing, Klay is 111 made threes behind Steph. Not on pace for that margin eventually- 111 behind for the season so far.
The Soapbox: Mo Buckets Appreciation
One of the early Warriors Weeklies last season was on the “Speightsaissance” after his big game against Oklahoma City. At that point, big Speights games were more amusing side story than anything else and he eventually developed a fascinating, unique role on the title team. Losing David Lee but adding Jason Thompson and Kevon Looney (along with more healthy minutes from Festus, presumably) seemed to indicate a potential reduction in role and playing time for Mo Buckets. As was the case a year ago, staying ready and thriving at what he does best has helped both Speights and the team through a challenging stretch.
Before the season, I wrote about a concept I call counterweights for Hardwood Paroxysm. The idea is that some players’ best value comes from taking away what others do well. Speights is not that necessarily, though he has some parallels to Meyers Leonard when playing center. As he discussed last night post-game, Mo does best when the opposing big is uncomfortable leaving the paint because Speights will take and make those shots when they are given to him. There may not be a better big man combo to exploit for that than Chandler and Len, producing a perfect storm for Mo to get buckets. Beyond his variable playing time, Speights’ best games of the season have been against centers who struggle (or refuse) defending in space including the Jazz (Gobert/Withey), Thunder (Kanter) and Magic (Vucevic).
While Speights has weaknesses that limit his overall effectiveness like protecting the rim, he works well with players like Livingston and Iguodala because he spaces the floor from the center spot and they can help control his access to shots. Just about every guy who comes off the bench in the NBA has limitations but possessing an unusual strength that opponents have trouble adjusting to in a regular season setting can produce a meaningful advantage. The games come too quickly to really develop a plan of action for Mo Buckets so he can thrive.
With Festus Ezeli still out after knee surgery, Speights and Varejao combined have an important role to play since Bogut will play limited minutes and the team should not put too much strain on Draymond during the regular season. While those minutes will likely evaporate when the stakes get higher, in the present they are still key as the Warriors seek to lock up the #1 seed and pursue history. Coach Kerr has done a nice job picking Speights’ spots and knowing when to keep him in, which can be even more crucial.
The Week to Come:
Depending on how Pop handles the late part of the season, this could be the biggest week remaining for Golden State’s chances of making regular season history.
The week starts with the final two games of the homestand: Monday vs. New Orleans and Wednesday vs. New York. Both teams will not make the playoffs but have looked better recently. The Pelicans do not have any perimeter threats that will be particularly challenging (though Jrue Holiday has defended Curry well in the past) but Iguodala missing Melo and the Knicks will hurt.
From there, the Dubs head to Dallas for what could end up being a first round playoff preview since the Mavericks have succumbed to a challenging schedule that will stay rough for a little while longer. The next night, the Warriors face the Spurs in San Antonio for the first time this season in the first game in a long time where they will not be the favorites.
If the Warriors beat the Spurs in a game with so many structural disadvantages (rest, Iguodala being out, etc), it could change the dynamic a little but remember that Pop will not tip his hand for anything that could be relevant for an eventual series, especially after his amazing quote earlier this season about the Warriors:
— Danny Leroux (@DannyLeroux) February 12, 2016
The combination of the Spurs and a potential trap game the night before makes 3-1 the best bet, especially with Iguodala out.