In a matchup that the Golden State Warriors have completely dominated in the past three years, Friday night’s tussle at Oracle Arena provided just about the same result. James Harden, the frontrunner for the MVP, struggled yet again to the tune 4-18 shots to go with 6 turnovers on a bum wrist. Even when healthy the success The Beard has found have been few and far between. A fight that always seems to exhibit what seems like nothing but scoring and even more scoring, the Warriors have found a way to stifle the Rockets attack while unleashing their own.
Ron Adams’ defense relies on a team’s ability to not only switch but to maximize the defensive IQ of an entire unit. He can unleash his scheme on any other team in the NBA, and the result would not come nearly as successful as it has in the last 2.5 years. All the way from Shaun Livingston, Matt Barnes, David West, Zaza Pachulia, and Klay Thompson the Warriors have an assortment of intelligent athletes that are almost always closing out and helping out at all the right angles. Then to top it off, there is Andre Iguodala shooting the passing lanes and Draymond Green closing the lid at the rim.
This has been written ad nauseam at this point but the team that won the championship found a defense that zipped up even the most prolific offenses. From there, they were able to unleash the transition shooting and celebrations of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.
Blocks and steals don’t denote a great defense but 14 blocks and 10 steals to go along with a 13-point Rockets 4th quarters is something. Up 3 with 5 minutes left, Steve Kerr went with Draymond Green at the 5 and the Warriors coasted to a 107-98 finish. For what seems like the first time all season, the crunch-time offense resembled the one of last season, the one that made a double-digit deficit vanish within seconds. The open shots came over and over again as the Rockets doubled Curry and allowed tic-tac-toe passing from Barnes to Livingston to Iguodala. Then to cap it off, Curry railed a 26-foot 3 right over Lou Williams head.
As the 2017 regular season comes to a close, it appears that the Warriors are less so running on fumes chasing 73 than ever before. Instead, they are fusing together the defense that won them a title along with an offense that is slowly rounding into the form that made them the second rendition of the Showtime Lakers. They aren’t all the way there yet, still without Kevin Durant. But there is a hypothetical peak for every basketball team. Maybe they would never have reached that with how they coasted with KD on the team. Now, left with no choice but to find themselves in the past month, they have a chance to turn out greater than they have ever been.