As the Golden State Warriors break ground this afternoon on the Chase Center in San Francisco's Mission Bay, it's time to reflect on how the 1st half of the season has gone for our beloved Warriors.
While the NBA All Star Break in New Orleans is a month away, the Warriors have played exactly half of its regular season games. Their record is 35-6, on pace for 70 wins. Last year at this point they were 37-4. Not that far off! The key difference between this year and last year is not having the constant pressure of chasing the 72 win record. Unlike last season, it is actually a blessing that the Warriors did not start this season 24-0, something that brought about a good deal of media attention and stress to our favorite NBA team.
Another difference is the way the Warriors are passing the ball. Last night was a good example of how free flowing the offense can be when there is constant ball movement. The Cleveland Cavaliers were very good in last year's NBA Finals at keeping the Warriors from effectively moving the ball due to the way they guarded the high screen. It also didn't help that Steph Curry was not quite the same from the injury he sustained earlier in the postseason and we won't even get into the peculiar timing of Draymond Green's suspension. :/
Well poor ball movement was not the case last night as the Warriors drained nearly half of their 3 point attempts. This is the team we have come to know and love and the addition of Kevin Durant has enabled the Warriors to free up Curry and Klay Thompson in the perimeter while Green takes care of the dirty work (love that hit on LeBron James as shown in the image for this article!).
The Cavs can continue to commit big men like Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love to the 3 point line which they did so well to disrupt the Warriors offense last year. The problem is that Durant is then left in 1-on-1 or isolation situations. He is as good as anyone in the league at driving to the rim to collapse a defense and draw fouls, something the Warriors could not do well in last year's NBA Finals and something the Cavs, primarily LeBron and Kyrie Irving, do very well. The Cavs could choose to double team Durant but then that provides open looks for Curry or Thompson from behind the arc.
In some ways, this team reminds me of the 2014-2015 Warriors team that ended a 40 year championship drought (interestingly coincided with the end of California's actual drought). They are playing loose and not concerned with anything else but a title. Last year, the burden of breaking the record for most wins in a regular season was heavy and unfortunately it lead to a significantly higher number of minutes played for Curry, Thompson, and Green. While the Big Four have played a high number of minutes due to last year's bench leaving via free agency, there is a good chance the Warriors will see some separation from the San Antonio Spurs in the standings. That is when we should expect Steve Kerr to limit the minutes of the Big Four in preparation for the 2-month postseason stretch in the spring.
Can the Warriors reach 70 wins or even challenge for 74 wins? Sure. Will they. Probably not. Why? Because the sting of losing the NBA Finals with a 3-1 lead can still be felt even after exacting revenge to our rivals (something LeBron seems to disagree about). No need to chase regular season accolades. Titles are what matter and a title run is on the horizon!