There were two moments in Wednesday’s steal of a win against the Toronto Raptors that could define this season. It started with Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, Stephen Curry, and Klay Thompson all producing individual highlights to close out Lowry and Derozan and the Raptors in crunchtime. Then at the press conference, Steve Kerr compared the Warriors to a kid coming home to his dad with a bad report card with the question, “Are you ignorant or apathetic?” The response? “I don’t know and I don’t care.”
As you watch Jakob Poeltl grab 11 offensive boards, Pascal Siakam drop 14 points in a single quarter, countless turnovers in the frontcourt to stem runs and transition opportunities, the Warriors seem like they do not know what is going on and do not care at the same time. Draymond and Kerr both agreed the “mental conditioning” just isn’t there right now.
And then on the other side, the second overarching theme is the acclimation of Kevin Durant in crunchtime, especially in Draymond-to-5 lineups. Kerr is currently taking out Andre Iguodala a bit early and inserting him back in the last few minutes of the halves. In the first half, Death Lineup came back from 41-40 to go up 8 at halftime.
With Kerr not messing around in this game, they went small again with over 7 minutes left in a tie game, got down by 5 with 2 minutes left, then turned on the jets. There was a Draymond block at the rim against Poeltl, a Steph twister finish, a Durant Game 3 Finals-esque trey, an KD-to-Steph two-man game into a shimmy, and the capper to a Klay weakside block. A 10-0 run clinched the game and gave us a show for what is to come.
If there was one weakness last season for the Warriors, it was the uncertainty that comes with who handles the ball in close games. They remedied that by simply going to Durant in the NBA Finals. This season, they are running their actual motion offense in crunchtime and are starting to look like the 2015-16 Warriors that ended up as one of, if not the clutchest team of all time. The end goal here in terms of Durant’s familiarity is that, of course, the Warriors mirror that 2015-16 team, but with Durant’s talent rocketing it into another stratosphere. The glimpse of the KD drive into an open Steph 3 is frighteningly just to think about for opponents.
And if these mental lapses in the beginning of games means the Warriors get to hone their end-of-game execution even more? They’ll take that.
I always like to do these whenever I go cover a game as you can just see more of what’s going on the court live.
1. My favorite in-game moments are when Draymond gets angry at Klay for making a defensive rotation mistake or something, then KLay staring back at him blankly while Dray gesticulates, then finally both just walking away silently. Classic Draymond and Klay.
2. Klay’s in-between game has gotten a lot better this season. He had five assist but he’s also much more calm and you can tell he’s seeing the game slower, meaning he can anticipate what is going to happen before the opponents even do it. Things like taking an extra dribble into a shot on a flyby, pausing a second before passing it to a big man in transition, and creating off the dribble in PNR situations, waiting for the big to slip to the right spot. The guy just keeps improving.
3. Kerr benched Nick Young and Omri Casspi tonight and threw out a lineup of Jordan Bell, Patrick McCaw, Steph, Draymond, and Iguodala. Shoutout to Saam for coining it the Steph and Goons lineup. Easily my favorite combination for a coach that’s been tinkering through 5 games, this is the one that’s the right amount of defensive nastiness, length, and Steph handling that’ll make this entertaining and something to watch for.
4. Raptors can scout. Guys like Poeltl, OG Anouby, Pascal Siakam, and Norman Powell are all role players that should play in the league a long time, perhaps reminding us of Bell and McCaw. Now if they can just find a way to get some better superstars…
5. Draymond’s defense when he is locked in is simply spectacular. The way he talks, jumps, cuts, and recovers is unlike any other. He can guard the perimeter and the bench, not only making him the best defender in the league but also its most versatile. There was a moment where he switched onto a guard at the top of the key, surveyed the paint, watched Zaza at the corner of his eye fall back on a Demar stepback, and had the presence of mind and lateral quickness to jump into a contest even though he was a solid three feet away. Spectacular IQ and awareness.