The 119-111 Golden State Warriors win over the Atlanta Hawks looked just like any other win in the box score. They shared the ball to the tune of 33 assists, scorched from distance at 45.5% and turned the ball over 14 times. Stephen Curry carried the offense with help from Klay Thompson and Draymond Green controlled the opposing team’s best player in another masterpiece DPOY performance. Look closely, however, and it resembled something along the lines of the Warriors from 2015-16. The championship Golden State Warriors.
After the game, Andre Iguodala honestly stated that last year’s team got used to winning and thought every game was the same easy story. The “lack of adversity” didn’t rear its head during the injury in the first round, nor the 3-1 deficit in the WCF, but at the worst possible time in the NBA Finals. They seem a little wary of this, or perhaps this was more of a wise veteran happy his team had to re-trace the steps the championship team took to win their first title.
Kerr’s first iteration of this team locked down on defense, shared the ball with a healthy dose of Curry PNRs, and played with a tenacity on both sides that made the proverbial chip on the shoulder feel like a boulder. The adversity that would presumably crush this team after the 3-1 collapse got swallowed whole by the addition of Kevin Durant. Any regression and NBA Finals hangover was immediately balanced out by KD’s ability to defend and take the entire scoring load off an offense that was one of the greatest of all time. They didn’t miss a beat.
With his sudden injury, that shock has forced the Warriors to narrow that margin of error to almost that of a normally great team. They need Curry to inject offense into games like the MVP again, Draymond to defend like the best rim protector in the league again, the bench to provide the depth that “Strength In Numbers” was created from, and the Warriors to play with the joy that made them infectious throughout the nation.
Without any other option but to rely on what got them this great, the Warriors are trying to recalibrate what they used to do best. The lack of focus still remains to start games but that’s understandable through a long regular season. But the last three quarters last night gave the very blueprint that created this budding dynasty. They ran the offense almost exclusively through Curry PNRs with anyone possible. If not one, then two, if not on-ball then two more on the baseline that shook him loose.
Kerr gave Curry no choice other than to carry this offense. And Curry did not disappoint. On the other end, Draymond swiped his way through Paul Millsap into a 6-16 performance. And after the stops, he crashed down the lane in transition like a mini-Kevin Durant and transformed back into the offensive superstar he was last season.
Finally, the bench came in and provided the type of performance that made this team truly unbeatable. Andre Iguodala dropped 24 points to go with David West and Ian Clark’s combined 20. It kept them afloat through the non-Curry minutes that usually derail this team.
Now the Warriors head into a one-day break after a back-to-back into a 3-games-in-4-nights with only one at home. The greatest insurance is sidelined with a potentially disastrous knee injury. Everyone else has not been the same through this 2016-17 season. The San Antonio Spurs are just 2 games behind them for the 1-seed. Things could get a little ugly in the next few weeks.
After the vintage performance against the Hawks, it’s time to see how great they can still be.