The Golden State Warriors earned a very impressive road win over the Miami Heat yesterday, winning 123-114. The game showcased the Warriors at their absolute best, with Steph Curry recording 36 points and 12 assists, including shooting 8-15 from three point range. David Lee was outstanding with 32 points and 14 rebounds, and the rest of the Warriors provided plenty of support. The win was the seventh in a row for Golden State, and they are starting to assert themselves as NBA championship contenders.
What is very interesting about the Warriors is the path they are taking to become title contenders. Normally if you give up 114 points you are going to lose, but the Warriors simply score so many points their opponents can’t keep up. The Warriors only rank 8th in the NBA in scoring right now, but if they continue to stay healthy and play well, that ranking should move up. The Warriors rank 10th in scoring defense, but that statistic is somewhat misleading. They have played 10 games against elite teams this season, giving up an average of 108.5 points per game in those contests.
Andre Iguodala is one of the best wing defenders in the NBA, and Harrison Barnes is more than capable as well. However, Curry and Klay Thompson leave something to be desired on the defensive end, as do Lee and Andrew Bogut in the post. This means that on most nights the Warriors have to rely on their offense to get wins, and they have been able to be very successful with that this year. Curry and Thompson are arguably the two of the best shooters in the NBA, while Lee provides a very strong low post scoring threat.
When their shooters are hot, there are very few teams that can keep up with the Warriors. The question is, can they sustain that level of shooting on a long playoff run? There has always been a belief in the NBA that having a strong defense is important because it is much more consistent than offense. Shooters going cold is just a part of basketball, but quality defensive teams can cover for their off nights. The Warriors don’t have that ability, which leaves them very one-dimensional.
However, the Warriors can be legitimate title contenders because of who their shooters are. Golden State currently ranks 6th in the NBA in field goal percentage and 3rd in three point percentage. Both Curry and Thompson are shooting over 40% from three, and Lee, Iguodala and Bogut are all shooting over 50% from the field. With those kinds of numbers, it is easy to believe that the Warriors will be able to win playoff series, even against top opposition.
If the Warriors mount a serious run at the title, they will be one of the most unique teams in NBA history to do so. Most of league history tells us that run and gun teams will falter in the playoffs, but given the quality of their shooters, the Warriors might just be the team that can break that trend.