Posts tagged Golden State
Warriors scarier than ever behind Steph Curry's historic start to season
Carlos Avila Gonzalez / The Chronicle

Carlos Avila Gonzalez / The Chronicle

We’re only a week and a half in and the league is in mid-season form. The same can be said for the Warriors, who have already taken their place atop the West. But they’re not the team we’ve grown used to seeing the past two years with Kevin Durant in tow. This time, Steph Curry is the in charge of things on offense.

Life is great for the #StephBetter contingent. Curry leads the league in scoring at 33.9 ppg on 50-50-90 shooting. He leads the Warriors in shot attempts, just a hair in front of Durant, and incredibly, over half of Curry’s field goals have been 3-pointers.

A good sign of the offensive shift is the amount of three’s Curry is getting off (about 13 a game.) In the last two seasons, it often felt as though the game plan was to keep Durant comfortable, causing Curry’s game to suffer just slightly. However, the Warriors showed in last season’s Finals that they reach their peak when Curry is the primary option.

Steph knows how to embrace the lead man role. It’s been a career long goal for Curry to perfect the balance of creating for others and taking over by himself. Through seven games, he’s on pace to set an NBA record for offensive plus-minus with 12.77. Curry’s done this by limiting his one-on-one three’s, driving more to the rim to create for his teammates, and though he’s missed some easy layups, he’s mastered the art of relocating to the corner before the defense can catch their breath. Teams realize this, but they still can’t stop it, and it doesn’t help that there’s always one other All-Star on the court at the same time.

KD and Draymond Green have followed their point guard’s lead. The two sit just behind him in Assist Percentage at 26% and 28% respectively (Curry is sitting at 25%.) While Golden State leads the league in team assists, they’re also leading the league in team turnovers, 69% (nice) of which are coming off of bad passes. While this stat certainly sounds bad, the silver lining is that they’ve been a byproduct of their willingness to pass, and their commitment to this system. The Dubs need to tighten up their passing though if they want Curry to keep dominating from deep. He’s shooting 70% on assisted 3-pointers (completely insane). Though some may question the sustainability of this level of shooting, Curry is working harder without the ball than with it, and that’s keeping his stamina up in the long term

Should Curry’s hot shooting hold steady, Golden State won’t just run through the league; they’ll tear it apart. Whether it be behind Steph’s historic start to the 2018-19 season, or just the sheer joy that he brings to the sport, Curry is captaining this squad and picking up where he left off in 2016.

Western Conference Finals preview
USATSI

USATSI

The Houston Rockets fulfilled their destiny by finding their way to the Western Conference Finals. It seemed like this was bound to happen since the trade sent Chris Paul to Houston, but along the way they exceeded expectations by winning the west, and getting James Harden to play at an MVP level with an all-time point guard beside him.

Now they face the Golden State Warriors with the NBA Finals on the line, and unlike past playoff matchups, the Rockets expect to win.

They’ve been targeting Golden State for years, this season especially. In their opening night matchup, the Rockets came back from down 14 in the fourth quarter to steal the win on ring night, and when a KD jumper was called no good on replay, the Rockets did all but pop the champagne. But now they’re ready for the real bubbly, at least they believe they are, and that’s a huge part of being a title contender.

The Rockets have a vastly different mindset as a team, and that’s a credit to their player development and coaching. Harden doesn’t get caught sleeping on defense anymore, CP3 has smoothly transitioned into a secondary ball-handler, and Clint Capela is playing his role the way Dwight Howard never did during his time in Houston. It’s reminiscent of the Warriors when they play hard every night. It’s the focus of a team that’s finding out they have some chops. Unfortunately for them, they’ll have to go through the big dogs.

The Warriors are looking at this series quite different than Houston is. They’ve gone to hell and back in the playoffs, but they’ve also got a lot more chemistry than the Rockets. They’ll probably end up screwing around and start Javale to match up with Capela because they know their margin of error is the highest in the league. It really comes down to the talent, and Golden State wins that battle.

With Klay Thompson most likely guarding Harden, it sets up for a CP3-Steph match-up, conjuring up memories and emotions from when the Clipper-Warriors rivalry was at its peak. CP3’s instinct may take over where he’ll feel the need to go at Steph, but I think he can be much more effective in the rhythm of their offense. Steph has added muscle to be able to hold his own in defensive switches in the pick and roll, but Paul comes into this series as a much healthier player, and with some momentum after that crazy 40/10 closeout performance vs. Utah in the semifinal. He’s going to try to get Steph out of the game whenever he can, goating him into making mistakes in 1 on 1 defense, but in the end, Curry’s output on offense should win the individual match-up.

Another intriguing match-up is Harden vs. Kevin Durant. While they won't be guarding each other much this series, they’re the best scoring options on their respective teams. Houston simply cannot guard KD 1 on 1. Durant can shoot over, dribble past, and finish on anyone, Trevor Ariza included, and while Harden lacks the height that KD brings to the table, he’s gotten into peak physical shape which has elevated his game to MVP levels. Most likely, we’ll see various actions to get Harden running downhill off the pick and roll. The Rockets love their pick-and-roll sets where Capela immediately uses a downscreen from a shooter (Eric Gordon, for ex.) who can pop out for three. The Warriors defense will formulate a gameplan, preemptively switching the defenders involved, but it’ll require a series long focus. If Harden runs the Dubs tired, it could mean a game to the Rockets.

There's no question that the Rockets give the Warriors the best challenge they've seen in the playoffs. For the first time in the Steve Kerr era, the Warriors won’t have home court advantage, and will have to play a Game 7 on the road if the series stretches that far. Game one could be the closest of them all, as the Warriors come in looking to steal home court & Houston's momentum. One thing I'm sure of is this: the winner of this series will win the NBA title.

Dubs in Fo’

Ball Don't Lie Ep 17 - Bring David Stern Back ft. @Mariannoo
Has the NBA caught up to the Warriors?
STF

STF

In the summer of 2016, when asked about the Warriors plucking Kevin Durant away from the Thunder, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said during the league's annual board of governors meeting “I do not think that's ideal from the league standpoint.” It was obvious that he was afraid that the new acquisition would create too good of a team. His major oversight, though, was that the dominance of Golden State would force the rest of the league to find ways to catch up, and this season, there are a few standouts that have done just that.

The most obvious candidate this season has been the Houston Rockets. As if James Harden wasn’t enough, their astonishing and impressive move to get Chris Paul last summer brought up a few questions. And rightfully so, having two ball deflating point guards as your two best players makes you wonder if they could bog each others games down.

But it’s been quite the opposite. Their willingness to sacrifice touches, stagger their minutes and commit to defense has made their lives a whole lot easier. It’s admirable too, being that the two up to this point, haven’t embraced sacrifice previously. The Rockets collection of savvy signings and pesky vets have also contributed to their success. But their also the right collection of players to give the Warriors a headache.

While CP3 has been surpassed by Steph already, he still has the ability to get pesky on defense and physical on offense. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen Paul draw bullshit fouls on Steph, but I know it’s an effective skill that he’s mastered. Harden is just as good at this, so the threat of getting the Dubs into foul trouble is a serious one.

The key for houston though, is their center, Clint Capela. Having rode the bench for years, the departure of Dwight Howard gave Capela opportunity to find his game, and his game is pretty damn good. He’s had the length and lateral quickness to be a problem on defense, but developing patience and poise brought it all together.

The kid isn’t vertically challenged either, he gets up for lob opportunities like a DeAndre Jordan, but he doesn’t yearn for possession wasting post touches. He’s perfect for Houston system, because his strengths compliment both CP3 and Harden to a tee. But when it’s playoff time, their All-Star Guards will ultimately determine the future of this team.

Boston is right up there with Houston. Their defense, if and when healthy, has the chops to make any teams lives difficult. Oh and they’re eventually getting All-Star Gordon Hayward back. Simply put, their really good right now, and they’re only going to get better in the coming years.

Though their stars weren’t drafted like Golden States were, they’ve built their team to mimic the them in a few ways. The offense hinges on Kyrie Irving, who like Curry can create for himself and others, but also can be used of the ball to space the floor. Without him, offense gets difficult down the stretch, but Brad Stevens system gives them legs to stand on.

The real unsung hero for the Celtics though, is Al Horford. He’s the key to their defense, but can unlock so much more on offense. His spacing is a threat, but if someone closes out to hard on him, he’s still got the footspeed and the skill to drive and create for himself or his teammates. I like to think that him and Draymond Green are two sides of the same coin, Horford is stronger on offense and Green stronger on defense.

Their young wings are really intriguing too. Everytime I watch Jaylen Brown make a move in transition, I’m reminded of Jordan. He’s nowhere near as talented, but just the way he moves on the floor is impressive. He’s also shown actually basketball talent too, don’t get me wrong. He competes well on defense, spreads the floor well from three, and he’s relentless and athletic around the rim. Then there’s Jayson Tatum, their standout rookie. He hasn’t shown the same defensive prowess as Brown, but his offensive game is unique for his age (he’s only 19 + a few days!).

What makes the Celtics different, though, is youth. Other than the 31-year-old Al Horford, their core is young enough become even better in the next few years. Surely they’ll run the east, but once they get a taste of the Finals, who knows how good they can be.

These two have both followed and tweaked the blueprint that Golden State has shown to be successful. Even though they’ve shown that they have the chops to give the Dubs problems, they won’t be the last to do so. Sure it takes young and talented players to become great in the long term, but stability from ownership, and competency from management and coaches is just as important. This is the key to success in the NBA, the rest of the league just needs to keep taking notes.

How is Draymond Green doing?

For a third straight year, Draymond Green has been selected to the All-Star Game to much, including my, chagrin. Not to say that he doesn’t deserve it, or that I think he hasn’t played like an All-Star, he has. My concern is the lack of downtime All-Star weekend can provide to any player that gets to play in it. Just watch first trip to the ASG in Toronto in 2016.

One of my biggest questions for Green is how healthy he really is? It’s seemed like he’s been wearing his undershirt for more than half the season. Here and there he looks physically disgruntled, and I justwonder why he doesn’t take some games off to make sure everything’s good. He’s also been wearing an electric stimulator on his back whenever he’s on the bench, and having used one myself in physical therapy, it’s a clear sign that his back isn’t in the best shape either.

It’s clear that Green is taking it upon himself to be ready to play. While the Dubs have shown that they’re happy to rest players for games at a time, Green could probably use some. In an interview with The Athletic, Green said, “What we start? 4-3. I knew all three of those losses were 100 percent my fault. I just wasn’t locked into the game. It’s just like if KD comes out and he can’t score, or if Steph comes out and he can’t score. It hurts because that’s their job. It’s my job to bring that emotion, to bring that fire and I wasn’t.”

It’s an interesting response Draymond though. Green is the quarterback of their defense, and a coach on the floor. If you ever catch a game where Draymond isn’t playing, you’ll be in for a sloppy game on both ends. Even if Green doesn’t have the best outing, he’s going to snap the other guys into shape.

In their Dec. 23 loss to the Nuggets, Draymond berated Klay all the way to the bench after a questionable shot in the 3rd quarter.  When asked about Draymond's reaction, Klay said “I don’t mind him getting on me… I hope he does it next time as well.” This is a clear sign of the respect Green gets from his teammates, and it’s built on being right most of the time. Without Green on the floor, there isn’t another player or coach holding the team accountable in moments like that.

As a Draymond stan, something I’ve yearned for this season are Green’s monumental defensive plays, whether it’s diving for a loose ball to start the break or making a game changing block. Instead, Durant has been the one with defensive highlights, and subsequently getting Defensive Player of the Year buzz. Give KD credit for stepping up his aggression, but it’s also due to Draymond's lack of physical aggression.

But Draymond could just be changing as a person. He’s been avoiding technical fouls, and keeping his emotions in check. His choice in music has started to shift as well, listening to slow jams and 80s funk pre-game, and even using it to focus throughout the game.

Every new season though, players try to come in with a new aspect in their game. For Green, it’s been maturation, and trying to find the balance between aggression and poise. For a 2nd round pick who’s had to ride the chip on his shoulder to get to where he’s gotten, it’s a big step to change those ways. Green is an established player in this league, a 3-time All-Star, and a DPOY. He doesn’t have to put in the same work he did to get here. But Draymond lives by his own standards, and those standards are the most high.

Confessions of a Steph Curry hater
(Photo by Zhong Zhi/Getty Images)

(Photo by Zhong Zhi/Getty Images)

Hi, my name is Robert Christie. And I hate Steph Curry.

No not the man of God, family man and all-around nice guy Steph appears to be. The cocky, shimmying, pull up from 50, cold-blooded assassin Steph. That. guy. I hate that guy.

For a while that hate made me minimize Steph’s accomplishments, characterizing him as “just a shooter” and not acknowledging the many things he does well on the court.

But then Steph went on a tear since coming back from his injury Dec. 30 (he’s averaging 35 points per game on 57% shooting and 53% shooting from three in the last five games), then Pavy gave possibly the worst basketball take of the year and we’re only in January - it was time for things to change.

It’s unfortunately time for me to confess - Wardell “Stephen” Curry is already one of the greatest players of all time.

So why did it take me so long?

Good question. I mean Steph has been averaging at least 20 points per game since 2012, was the first-ever unanimous MVP, missing just three games that season when the Warriors won a record 73 games.

The thing is, hating Steph became very easy during the past few years.

Warriors fans have never been honest about Steph. During his MVP season there were so many stories about the humble kid from Davidson who was beating the odds and playing the right way. Those same fans seemed to ignore the fact Steph was the first player in NBA history to shimmy after every five possessions and the first player in league history to run back on defense BEFORE HIS THREE POINTER WENT THROUGH THE FREAKIN’ NET!!!!

Do you guys remember when people said that Steph had become the best player in the league? That was funny. There were people who legimitately thought during the 2015-2016 season that Steph was better than LeBron.

Yes, Steph had the greatest offensive season in NBA history, but people seemed to forget LeBron doesn’t try during the regular season, and he’s in the conversation for greatest offensive and defensive player of all time.

Then there’s the fact Steph plays for the Warriors, something Steph lovers also seem to forget.

The Warriors are the sexier version of the San Antonio Spurs and New England Patriots. Each of these teams has a system designed to maximize the potential in every player.

Steph Curry was an all-star before Steve Kerr took over in Golden State. Mark Jackson apparently had no idea how to utilize Steph, playing him too many minutes and often times causing the future MVP to tire out at the end of games.

When Kerr arrived and instilled an offense that included various types of basket cuts, more ball movement and an encouragement for more three point shots, life became easier for Steph. The Warriors won a championship in 2015 and Steph averaged 30 ppg on 50 percent shooting the next season.

Steph is commonly compared to guys like Harden and LeBron, two dudes who are constantly in MVP discussions. But there is a major difference between him and those other two guys. The Warriors offense revolves around Steph Curry. LeBron and Harden are the Cavaliers’ and Rockets’ offenses.

According to Basketball Reference, Harden’s usage rate is at 36.1% and Steph’s is at 31.3%. LeBron’s is at 30.7 but that number will rise much higher in the playoffs when he is asked to make a majority of the offensive - and, quite frankly, the defensive - decisions. (Yes, I am aware usage rate has nothing to do with defense but again you Steph lovers seem to forget how good LeBron is.)

I say all this to ask, how good would Steph be if he wasn’t on a team with three future hall-of-famers and had to carry the Cavs’ and Rockets’ (pre-Chris Paul) offenses?

I’ll admit Steph is the reason the Warriors’ offense has reached historic levels but the Warriors are equally the reason he’s been able to reach historic levels of his own.

 

Steph’s Greatness

Regardless of everything I said, I guess I should get to the part where I’ve realized how great Steph is.

It’s pretty obvious Steph is the greatest shooter of all time. He’s already eighth on the all-time three pointers made list and he’s only 29. Even with all the threes he takes he ranks fourth all time in three-point percentage at 43.6 percent.

Oh, then there was this play on Feb. 27, 2016 which pretty much cemented Steph’s place in shooting history.

The three point shooting is what keeps everyone entertained. But Steph is an elite scorer at each level of the floor.

According to CleaningTheGlass.com, Steph is shooting 67% at the rim - which is better than some big men - and 52% from midrange.

For context, Russell Westbrook is shooting 59% at the rim and 35% from midrange. Kyrie Irving? 64% at the rim and 45% from midrange.

Then there’s Steph’s passing, He’s averaging 6.4 APG this year, 6.8 APG for his career. But as I said before, he plays for a team similar to the Spurs - the amount of ball movement will not allow one person to compile a large amount of assists.

Then there’s the type of assists where Steph never touches the ball. If you spend time around Warrior’s twitter, you’ve heard people talk about Steph’s “gravity," referring to the attention Steph gets which allows open scoring opportunities for other teammates.

If you watch here, you’ll see Gary Harris is so scared of Steph’s shooting ability he lets Andre Iguodala run right by him for a layup.

Finally, there’s Steph’s defense. Yes, it’s the weakest parts of his game but he’s not a bad defender.

Steph does an excellent job moving his feet and staying in front of defenders. His quick hands also help him pester ball handlers and play passing lanes which has helped him average close to two steals per game for his career.

Look, if you’re like me and Steph Curry’s behavior on the court gets under your skin that’s fine. That’s basketball. But don’t let that hate take away from acknowledging just how great Steph is.

Why Steph Curry's injury hasn't removed him from MVP consideration

With 2:55 left in the 3rd Quarter, it looked as though Stephen Curry’s night was over. He had dropped 35 points and hit nine threes to give the Warriors a 103-87 lead. In unanimous MVP fashion, Curry did this all in 22 minutes of play. But their lead diminished in the fourth quarter, and with five minutes to go, Curry checked back in, gets Marc Gasol on an island and goes to work.

Cross, cross, snatch-tween, splash, filayyyy! Steph leaves Gasol at the nail and stomps it into the coffin.

After missing eleven games due to an ankle sprain, Curry's return was emblematic of what he means to the Warriors. Without him, they were still able to win 9 of 11 games behind Kevin Durant, but their change in play was evident. The Warriors pace dropped from 103.94 down to 98.94 without Steph. This is largely due to the Warriors sticking to a slower offense, consisting of post-entries that lead to off ball cutting. With Steph in the lineup, there’s more room for improvisation, and it’s encouraged as well. The shots he puts up from three not only keep the defense guessing, but they have a 40% chance of going in, and the byproduct is easier shots for everybody else.

There was a silver lining to Curry’s injury. Before his absence, the Dubs led the league in both offensive rating (114.6), and net rating (12.9). Without Steph at point, Steve Kerr plugged in lengthier guards like Patrick McCaw and Shaun Livingston. The Warriors ORTG dropped to 17th in the league, at 105.9, but their DRTG became the best in the league at 98.7. This isn’t all due to Curry being out though. Zaza Pachulia injured his shoulder in the same game that Steph hurt his ankle - he returned two games before Steph. This left significant minutes on the table for rookie Jordan Bell, who got to show off his defensive potential, even starting in their Christmas matchup against the Cavs.

The Warriors, and Curry, hope to see the defense continue to dominate, and if it does, Curry should see more MVP consideration. Steph is still the team' leading scorer at 26.8 ppg, and leads the team and the league in plus/minus at +288 - even more impressive considering the games he missed and the fact that he’s playing the least amount of minutes per game of his career. (not counting 2010-2011 when he had ankle surgery after 26 games). After a month of rest and a hot start to the new year, Steph should be able to explode offensively while the defense gives him opportunities to push the break, and continue to do so at a high efficiency.