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Keys to Golden State Warriors' Recently Improved Play

Simon Cherin-GordonContributor IIIDecember 18, 2016

Keys to Golden State Warriors' Recently Improved Play

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    After blowing a big lead during a March 2 loss in Philadelphia, the Golden State Warriors found themselves sitting at 33-27, seventh in the Western Conference.

    Their six-game separation from the .500 mark was their lowest since they were 13-7 on Dec. 8.

    Over the last month, Golden State has gotten back to their winning ways. They've won 10 of their past 15 to climb 11 games above the .500 mark and back into sixth place.

    Here's a look at the biggest reasons for Golden State's turnaround.

The Dorothy Effect

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    After the Warriors' March 2 loss in Philadelphia, they returned home for seven games. They did win the first game of the homestand, but it was an ugly 125-118 win over the Toronto Raptors.

    After the game, coach Mark Jackson alluded to Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, stating that "Just because Dorothy clicks her heels and winds up at home doesn't mean that everything’s going to be all right."

    He's right, of course. Playing at home doesn't guarantee wins. You still have to play hard, with confidence and as a team to win in the NBA.

    Being at home just makes playing this way much more doable, and the Warriors have taken advantage.

    They won an acceptable games during that seven-game homestand, but they also got rested and rediscovered their defensive swagger in a 92-63 crushing of the Knicks on March 11. They carried this momentum into a three-game road trip where they won two of three games in blowout fashion, and promptly returned home for a five-game homestand.

    The Warriors again took advantage of sleeping in their own beds and playing in front of the NBA's best fanbase, winning four of five and climbing to 43-32.

    The Warriors are now 26-11 at home and have sold out 28 consecutive games.

    There's no place like home, there's no place like home. 

Andrew Bogut Coming into Form

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    He still isn't at 100 percent. He may not even be at 90. Considering the way he's playing, that's just fine. In fact, it may be a good thing.

    Andrew Bogut spent nearly a year recovering from micro-fracture surgery in his ankle, and he still lacks the stamina or rhythm that comes with playing a full season.

    Even so, the big Australian is averaging 8.6 points and 8.6 rebounds with 2.4 blocks on 52.8 percent shooting over the past seven games. He's a tough cover for opposing centers due to his extremely rare combination of size—he stands at 7'0" and weighs 245 pounds—skill and athleticism.

    He can catch lobs, soar to the rim, finish in transition, run a beautiful pick-and-roll and pass the ball as well as any big in the game.

    Where Bogut really makes his impact, however, is on the defensive end. 

    When Bogut first returned to the lineup in late January and early February, his presence hurt the team defense. The Warriors perimeter defenders became lazy, rotations were less fluid and Bogut was too out of shape to recover consistently.

    After missing six more games in late February and early March, Bogut returned to transform the Warriors defense for the better.

    The Warriors have allowed their opponents to score an incredible 93 points per game since Bogut's second return, and they can truly win games with their defense. Bogut is at the center of this, shutting down opposing bigs, controlling the defensive glass and blocking, changing or contesting every shot at the rim.

Stephen Curry's Ascension

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    To be fair, Stephen Curry's ascension from stardom to superstardom began while the Warriors were losing. In fact, it was a career-best 38-point performance during a Feb. 26 loss in Indiana that saw Curry take his game to a new level, and he followed that performance with his historic 54-point night at Madison Square Garden.

    Curry averaged 36.8 points during what became a four-game losing streak, and several people began to question the relevancy of a hot-shooting Curry. After all, winning is the goal.

    Well, Curry had something to say about that. After deferring frequently during the Warriors seven-game homestand—he averaged a relatively low 20.6 points while dishing out a relatively high 7.6 assists—Curry decided to raise the bar further than ever before.

    He's averaged 28.4 points per game over the past eight, doing so while shooting 49.7 percent from the field and 48.5 percent from deep. That doesn't even begin to tell the story, however.

    When a player shoots that well from three-point range, the reason is almost always that they are selective, only pulling up for three when they catch the ball in rhythm and are wide open, resulting in about two or three times a night.

    Curry has shot 9.7 three-pointers per game over those past eight games. Meaning he's made 4.7 threes a night.

    Sure, Curry's also gone for 7.6 assists, 5.0 rebounds and 1.6 steals during this stretch. I guess that's pretty impressive.

    But when a guy can literally take over a game and will his team to victory from behind the three-point line, something is happening that the NBA has never seen before.

    There's no way to stop a guy with disgusting handles along with great passing and driving ability from creating his own open looks at a three, especially when he has no qualms about pulling up from 27 feet away.

    There's no way to double-team a guy off the ball, but an off-ball double team would be necessary to stop Curry—one of the most crafty, deceptive, relentless cutters in the game—from springing free, catching a Jarrett Jack pass while he turns and drains.

    There's no way to stop Stephen Curry from shooting and draining threes, which means that if he's on, the Warriors might just win the game.

    That's what superstars do.

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