Welcome to Warriors Weekly after a somewhat tumultuous seven days.
The Week that Was:
Well, that depends on your perspective.
After an as-expected win over the Wizards, the Warriors defeated the Jazz in overtime the next night in a game that should be considered a triumph. They beat a quality team with a strong homecourt advantage on the tail end of a back-to-back despite missing Andre Iguodala and Festus Ezeli while only getting 17 minutes from Andrew Bogut.
Fans may have expected the Warriors to carry that momentum back home against the Celtics but the team did not deliver. While Boston deserves credit for playing well, the Dubs could not get out of their own way, turning the ball over 22 times.
On Sunday, Golden State got another nice win over Portland, including 39 points from Stephen Curry. Again, the team did a great job rebounding from a disappointing performance, even after a comparatively rough first quarter.
By most accounts, the team is in very good position. They have a lock on the #1 overall seed in the playoffs and still have a solid chance at tying or making history. Of course, that looked even better before Friday.
Crazy Warriors Stat of the Week:
At the moment, per Basketball-Reference Stephen Curry is 20th all-time in made threes in the regular season and separately 20th all-time in made threes in the playoffs (in 40 games).
He is 28.
The Soapbox: Unforced Errors
No NBA team has ever been perfect and the Warriors are no exception. These flaws make them compelling, albeit in an altogether different way than their transcendent excellence on both ends of the floor. Over the last few weeks I have been struggling to find a cogent way to explain one of their weaknesses: a propensity to make seemingly correctible small mistakes in judgment.
The best way to explain this could be with a tennis term. An unforced error is basically a mistake that could have been avoided and was not due to the action of the opponent. In basketball, these mistakes do not have to be turnovers. Rushed shots, botched rotations and missed rebounds can all quality in the “right” circumstances.
The Warriors are one of the league’s best teams at putting regular pressure on opponents that facilitates these kinds of mistakes (though not directly, since that would not be an unforced error) but it also may be their biggest overall weakness in this ridiculous season.
Friday’s loss to the Celtics illustrated some of the ways that can happen. While Boston deserves a ton of credit for playing hard and doing their part to nudge the Warriors towards a bad game, they did not need a ton of help.
Going back and watching all 22 turnovers in that game proved to be an interesting experience. Most of their early struggles came from overly ambitious passes- two that went a little too far for Klay to catch and a few thrown into windows that were too tight or non-existent. Both of those trends continued throughout the game but a larger proportion of the later turnovers came from some positive Boston action. Even a few more passes thrown over guy’s heads (Livingston to Green, Green to Bogut among them) had a little modification due to Celtics pressure.
Some of these miscues are unavoidable due to the unpredictability of the sport and the openness of Golden State’s offense. Being too regimented and formulaic would take away part of what makes this team so dangerous on that end. However, unforced errors also give an opponent life and better opportunities to score. The Warriors’ half court defense is so good at full strength that their own turnovers become extra devastating because they elicit looks the other team would not get without them.
Incidentally, one of the standard flavors of Warriors unforced error did not rear its head as much but could be the biggest issue in a playoff series. Live ball turnovers are when the ball changes possession without a stoppage in play and are the sport’s most devastating status changes because the opponent has a very good chance at a basket. Draymond’s pass early in the third that Evan Turner stole and became an Isaiah Thomas layup is a good example. While Boston scored 27 points off Golden State turnovers on Friday, comparatively few of them were off mistakes that created live ball scoring chances. Fewer overall turnovers but more live ball ones could be even more problematic in a playoff game.
The Week to Come:
The final full week of the regular season will be a doozy.
It begins with Minnesota coming to town, which may not seem daunting but they played Golden State tough two weeks ago and the Warriors have looked somewhat shaky in some of their recent home outings against weaker competition. (The Suns game still lingers with me a little.)
That concern will not matter in Thursday’s game against the Spurs. As of this writing, that game should be the single most important contest remaining in terms of the Warriors’ chances of making regular season history. If they win, they have a decent shot at it. If not, the margin is awfully tight. Also consider that Pop might rest some of his starters, as he has done in a few recent prominent road contests.
From there, the Dubs have their final road trip of the season. Memphis finally fell back to earth after some shockingly good play despite losing seemingly their entire team but still should be competitive as they battle to hold on to a solid seed. Coach Kerr has to be hoping for a blowout win because they have to face the Spurs on the road the next night. San Antonio will still be undefeated at home for Sunday’s game so they may come with some extra fire since they will only be two away from becoming the first team in NBA history to go 41-0 at home.
I am thinking the Warriors go 3-1, which would line them up for a clear shot at something remarkable on April 13.