Warriors are still the team to beat | NBA Africa News | Kwese Sports

Warriors are still the team to beat

Memory is a funny thing. As time moves on, it’s easy to forget certain things – like what life was like before Google Maps or just how good the Golden State Warriors are at basketball.

And it’s easy to get distracted when the likes of the Boston Celtics and Houston Rockets are rallying long winning runs. In the midst of this, it’s not unreasonable to believe that the Warriors won’t be in the NBA Finals.

It is in these moments that the Dubs will give a couple of reminders on who they are:

- On Thursday, Kevin Durant notched 20,000 career points to become the second-youngest player to accomplish this feat.

- Two weeks before this, Stephen Curry dropped ten 3-pointers to score 38 points in his first return back from injury.

And if that isn’t impressive, then their league-leading 34-9 record halfway into the season might convince you. And while the team is dealing with injuries and constant lineup changes, one thing remains constant: their ability to win and win convincingly.

The Dubs currently rank in the top five in the main statistical categories and lead in three including points (115.7), assists (30.4) and blocks (8.3). Their offense is still clicking as they still have consistent ball movement and the scoring is somewhat evenly distributed with all four All-Stars averaging double digits. As a result, Golden State have the second-best offensive rating in the league with 114.7.

Despite missing 14 games this season, Curry is quietly embedding his name in the MVP conversation with his current form. Curry is having one of the most productive and efficient seasons of his career, notching a career-high and league-leading true shooting percentage of 67.1. He is averaging 27.1 points per game on 49.2-percent shooting from the field, 41.4 percent from the perimeter and 92.6 percent from the free-throw line. The floor general is on par to notch his second 50/40/90 season. And while the Warriors were able to win games without Curry, his impact is still felt. When he is on the floor, Golden State outscore opponents nine points per 100 possessions as per basketball-reference.com. Curry’s offensive win share (a statistical metric that measures how many wins a player contributes to a team) of 4.5 ranks sixth in the NBA.

Durant is also having an MVP-worthy season. The lanky small forward currently ranks fourth in points per game with 26.3 while adding seven rebounds, 5.2 assists and a career high 2.2 blocks. Making a more concerted effort on defense, Durant has become an elite rim protector and has denied the likes of LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Andre Drummond. If he can maintain this performance, he could receive NBA First All-Defensive Team honors and a Defensive Player of the Year nomination.

Another Dubs player quietly filling up the status sheet is Klay Thompson. Since the arrival of Durant, the 27-year-old has had to do more with less. Despite his usage rate dropping from 26.1 to 24.3 percent, he is having one of his most efficient seasons. He averages 20.7 points while shooting a career-high 48.3 percent from the field and 88.5 percent from the line while recording the NBA’s fourth-best 3-point percentage of 45.3. He is the only player in the league to rank top ten in perimeter shooting while averaging over 20 points. In the last 30 games he has recorded a plus/minus of at least plus 1.

But Golden State is still fallible

While the Warriors continue to dominate teams, there are occasions where they show that when cut, they still bleed. Within the last month, they have had losses to less competitive teams like the Sacramento Kings, Charlotte Hornets and the Los Angeles Clippers.

The common denominator in these losses is that Golden State get killed in the paint. Teams with bigger size will tend to overwhelm them on the offensive boards and will outscore them in the post. In Thursday’s loss to the Clippers, the Warriors had four offensive rebounds to LA’s eleven. They also recorded 32 points in the paint in comparison to the Clippers’ 60.

A similar scenario happened with the 110-106 loss to the Kings. Golden State were outrebounded 11-9 in the offensive boards and outscored 42-62 in the paint. Sacramento were also able to force the Warriors to commit 15 turnovers, which they converted to 25 points.

The Hornets also did the same thing. In their 111-100 victory over Golden State, they forced 18 turnovers for 32 points while outscoring them 46-38 in the post. Charlotte were also able to take advantage of the Warriors’ foul trouble as they headed to the line 34 times and got 23 points.

These issues are easy to remedy with switching up the lineup and focusing more on offensive rebounding. The only thing that stands in the Warriors’ way is the Warriors.

By Lethabo Nxumalo

@leewritesalot

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