Before the season started, the slogan #ifhealthy was the mantra for the Warriors to make the NBA playoffs.
After Brandon Rush tore his ACL and with Andrew Bogut doing what he has done best the last few years, wear a tailored suit, that slogan lasted as long as the Warriors had a full bill of health.
One and a half games.
However, the strong play of Jack and Landry has helped put the teams’ playoff aspirations right on track. Both have been nothing short of outstanding and really give the Warriors two extra starters coming off the bench. Their play has inspired me to write a new slogan for Golden State to use for a postseason berth.
I don’t like to be presumptuous, but after a 16-8 start it is hard not to be.
After all, they already have 10 road victories before Christmas. That gives them 26 chances to get two more road wins in order to match their season win total away from home the last time they made the postseason.
Either they’re headed to the playoffs, or the Mayans are right.
It has truly been a team effort overcoming injuries to key members of the team. David Lee and Stephen Curry get most of the attention and rightfully so. They are the leaders of the team and are performing like All-Stars.
Klay Thompson is recognized because of his sweet shooting stroke and the fact that he has to be accounted for on the perimeter at all times. And Mark Jackson has done an incredible job so far this season and has made himself a Coach of the Year candidate. He has the Dubs playing strong defense on a team filled with average defenders. Really, every part of the organization deserves credit for where the Warriors are at right now.
But the biggest reason the Warriors are off to the great start is due to their outstanding bench play led by Jack and Landry. Both of whom are candidates for the Sixth Man of the Year award.
Jack’s numbers don’t exactly pop off the screen, but his presence does. He is really the vocal leader of not just the second unit, but of the entire team. His ability to handle the offense allows Curry to play more off the ball putting him in more of a scoring role. His perimeter defense really sets the tone when he is in the game.
The Miami Heat victory lay-in was an awesome and picture perfect example of the impact Jack can make with his playmaking ability in the waning minutes. Having him control the ball, opponents have to account for Curry and Thompson catching and shooting, as well as Lee and his scoring ability.
That’s a lot to cover for any defense, even for the reigning NBA champions. You see here what could happen when defenders are worried about the premier scorers on the floor.
Draymond Green found a seam, and Jack hit him while Battier had to be thinking that the ball was going to number 30, 10 or 11.
For the first time in a long time, the Warriors appear to have a plan at the end of the game. Jack is a big part of that. Not only did he make the game-winning play, it’s what he did after the game that was just as important.
After the victory, the players were acting like they had just won a championship. Jack was right there to provide reason, telling them to act like they have been there before. Tough to do since this group hasn’t been there before. But that’s what makes him vital to this Warriors team. That night and going forward Jack will be a huge veteran presence for a roster full of guys with limited winning experience.
As good as Jack has been, Landry has been equally impressive. He is averaging 12.9 points, 6.8 rebounds on 56 percent shooting in 25.8 minutes per game. Also, he is getting to the free throw line at the same high rate he is used to with 4.6 attempts per game. And he is knocking them down while shooting 80 percent.
Landry’s numbers speak for themselves.
What they don’t tell you is the impact he has had on David Lee. Lee has looked like one of the best power forwards in the NBA, and Landry has helped make that happen. Lee hasn’t had another low post scoring threat by his side since…well ever. With Landry providing significant help in the frontcourt, it has really taken pressure off Lee and has allowed him to start the season on a career high pace.
Lee is having such a good season that of the top two-player combinations the Warriors have this season, using their +/-, Lee is in four of the top five combos. You know who he is paired with owning the top two spots?
Hint, their names are in the title.
Landry’s biggest impact has been on the glass. The Warriors are the NBA’s third-best in rebounds per game at 45.8. Compare that to the third-worst in the previous season at 39.2 per game. Rebounding has been the key to the Warriors hot start.
What can go unnoticed is the rebounding on the offensive glass. Lee and Landry have combined for over six offensive rebounds per game allowing the Warriors to turn missed opportunities into points like this.
It's plays exactly like this that are gong a long way to turn close losses into close wins.
Jack and Landry really have helped overcome what could have easily been a harrowing start for the Warriors due to injuries. And as good as they both have been this far, the Warriors are only going to rely on them even more the rest of the way.
Out of the key members in the rotation (unless you want to count Richard Jefferson) these two are the only ones with playoff experience of any kind. The rest of the team is going to lean on their veteran leadership to help guide them through the remaining part of the schedule. This will be especially true when things tighten up and the schedule gets much tougher.
Jack will be on the floor when that time comes and Landry just might have the entire crowd making this pose in the postseason.
All stats in this article are accurate as of December 18, 2012.