Golden State came into the season with expectations of a top-four finish in the West, but failed to match the hype. After losing their defensive anchor just before the postseason, they face an enormous challenge to advance past one of their biggest rivals.
The Story So Far
The Golden State Warriors entered the season as one of the most hyped teams in the Western Conference, thanks to a valiant showing in last season’s playoffs and the addition of Andre Iguodala during the offseason.
However, after a hot start, Golden State failed to secure home court advantage in the first round and will now face their division rivals the Los Angeles Clippers in round one – technically the Clippers can rise to second, but they must beat the Portland Trail Blazers and hope the Oklahoma City Thunder lose to the hapless Pistons. Unlikely.
Thanks to their first 50-win season since 1991-92, the Warriors will be making their first consecutive appearances in the postseason since the 1990-92 seasons.
Golden State was once again one of the most prolific offensive teams in the league, pouring in a tenth-best 104.1 points per game, thanks to playing the sixth fastest pace in the league (96.1) and making the most three pointers for the season (766) at the fourth-best percentage (38.0%).
The Dubs turbocharged offence was again fuelled by Steph Curry, who continued to develop into one of the league’s biggest stars thank to another run of good health.
After harshly missing out on selection last season, Curry was chosen to his first All-Star team after averaging a career-high 24.0 points (seventh in the league) and 8.5 assists per game (sixth).
Off guard Klay Thompson continued his development as Golden State’s secondary scorer. The former Washington State product upping his points production to 18.5 per game (from 16.7 last season) and bettering his efficiency to 44.3% from the field (42.2%) and 41.6% from downtown (40.1%) – all career-highs.
The “Splash Brothers” give the Warriors the deadliest three-point threats in the league. Curry led the league in total threes made for the second year running, nailing 261 triples for the season– only 11 shy of his record-setting 272 last season. Thompson was not far behind his backcourt bro with 221 made treys (second in the league).
Meanwhile, David Lee (18.2 points and 9.3 rebounds per game) continued to thrive as Golden State’s primary interior scorer.
The Dubs have been great scorers in recent years, but have often wheeled out teams that were suspect on the defensive end.
However, that is where this season’s Warriors squad breaks the mold. After finishing last season 19th in points allowed (100.3 OPPG), Golden State has improved to eighth-best this season (99.3). Likewise, they improved their defensive rating from 14th (105.5) to fourth (102.5).
Much of this can be attributed to the addition of Iguodala (9.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.5 steals per night), whose defensive prowess and ability to play as a secondary ball handler have added another dimension to Golden State’s game plan.
Getting 67 games out of Andrew Bogut (7.3 points [62.7% FG – second in the league], 10.0 rebounds and 1.8 blocks [sixth] per game) should also not be overlooked.
Postseason Performer to Watch
Speaking of Bogut. The big Australian was recently ruled out indefinitely with a broken right rib and is highly likely to miss the playoffs.
While players like Curry, Thompson and Lee drive the Dubs offensive juggernaut, Bogut is the defensive anchor that completely turned around Golden State’s fortunes on the defensive end.
He is a fantastic rim protector – only Joakim Noah has a better defensive rating than Bogut, and only four players have a great block percentage than the Melbourne native – and his ability to defend against penetration is the perfect solution to Curry’s suspect perimeter defence.
Jermaine O’Neal (7.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per game) has manned the paint valiantly in stretches, but he is not the answer to Golden States’ problems.
If Bogut cannot return to the court in the postseason, the Warriors could really struggle in their first round matchup.
The Warriors and Clippers have played some of the most hotly contested games over recent seasons. It is no secret that the two teams do not like each other.
The two teams drew their season series 2-2, but that does not even begin to tell the history they have developed together over the past two seasons.
O’Neal and Blake Griffin have confronted each other postgame. Bogut has accused the Los Angeles’ of using “theatrics” in order to influence referees. Draymond Green has been ejected. Griffin has been ejected.
Regardless of the result, a Clippers versus Warriors series is bound to be one of the most explosive and exciting of the playoffs.
Unfortunately for Golden State, the matchup definitely favours Los Angeles. One of the Clippers greatest strengths is their big men Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, and with Bogut missing and Lee a subpar defender, the Clippers’ frontcourt is likely to have a field day against the Dubs.
Having Iguodala to guard Chris Paul should ease some of the pressure on Curry and allow him to focus more on contributing offensively, but losing Bogut has cost Golden State their backbone and makes seeing them advance past the first round unlikely.
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