The Golden State Warriors’ best five on the floor isn’t fueled by the likes of its best players. Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant are the offensive gods in a world run by mere mortals. Draymond Green and Klay Thompson provide the consistent and explosive defensive shield that’s the undercurrent of the team’s dynastic run. Those will always remain the constant. The missing link, however, has been Andre Iguodala’s health and play at any given moment. As great as the Hamptons 5, Death Lineup, etc are in the past few years, the electrical landslides were always unlocked by all five players able to defend without fouling, and scoring without hesitation. On Thursday night in a 126-113 victory, the final cog of the Death Lineup looked like himself once again.
Iguodala came in in his usual late first quarter stint and proceeded to immediately eschew a wide open 3 but surprisingly stepped inside to take a rhythm midrange jumper. Nailed. Then he reared back and crammed in a one-handed classic lengthy Iguodala dunk in transition. Not but a few possessions later, he confidently and aggressively stormed into the paint on a missed shot and tried an ambitious putback slam. And to cap off a sequence that should provide unbridled confidence for the masses, he came down and jacked up a 3 in transition. Make or miss, the confidence to even attempt that shot suggested a path to return to form for the perennially underrated star.
The Death Lineup went +4 to close out the first half and +7 to close out the game, leaving him a solid positive in their minutes. After the game, Steve Kerr did note that the game has changed to the point that smaller lineups with Draymond at center are no longer shocking the opponents like they have in the past. Everyone is playing small now, taking away some of the slight advantages in the margins the Warriors feasted on.
While the league grows, the Warriors are still at the forefront with the Kevin Durant addition. They host the trump card, the singular force that puts them not just a few notches above the likes of the San Antonio Spurs, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Houston Rockets, but it makes them a schematic nightmare. The cherry on top becomes Andre Iguodala. Instead of relying on his defensive acumen and streaky shooting, the Warriors find it necessary only to show off the sadistic nature of their crushing finality. The Minnesota TImberwolves chipped away at a double-digit deficit more than a few times in every half, only to be met by a buzzsaw that turned on in a single moment.
The three 50-40-90 candidates didn’t need Iguodala but the flashes shown gave us the longing feeling of the small-ball lineup that accentuated the defensive suffocation, offensive fluidity, and overall dominance we still thirst over. Kerr is right, the entire NBA has shifted to the way the Warriors has played and are catching up, step by step, to their checkmate move. If Iguodala can ever rediscover what might appear to be lost, the Warriors won’t just never lose again, they’ll dominate in a fashion that leaves the rest of the league scurrying upwards in the rear view mirror yet again.
1. Kevin Durant chucked a ball at the back of Karl Anthony-Towns after a ref blew the whistle on an over-the-back call. He’s been apologizing after going off in the media about the refs. That moment felt more like KD just getting mad at the thought of a ref missing a call. At this point, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy for the ire of these players. It’s not like the refs are great but there doesn’t seem to be a fix for this league-wide issue if neither side will budge on their behavior.
2. The Warriors backcutted the Wolves to death, to the tune of 39 fastbreak points in the first half. The second unit consisting of Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, David West, and Draymond Green can only score by doing one thing: cutting. And the Wolves allowed them to do it repeatedly and without any resistance. A little embarrassing for a Thibodeau-led defense.
3. Steph spent a possession just finding random people to screen, leading of course, into a wide open corner 3 for Klay Thompson. Unreal unselfishness.
4. A final note on the Death Lineup. Their offense is truly unstoppable regardless of what’s happening, just on the gravity of KD/Steph/Klay. Combine that with Minnesota’s defense and there was a stunning sequence where a Steph/Dray PNR led to a kickout to Klay on the wing, and the beautiful Spurs-ian extra pass to Kevin Durant in the corner. Then the defense forced the turnover and Steph found Klay wide open again in transition for a 3. That’s this insane lineup in a nutshell. They’ll lock you down in the halfcourt, and produce open shots against a set defense like clockwork. But they are its most lethal in the open field when they’re getting stops. Now let’s see if this keeps up.