Golden State Warriors Offense Making Them More Than a Dark Horse
Whoever came up with the "Defense wins championships" maxim clearly never saw the 2012-13 Golden State Warriors play offense.
Now up three games to one against the Denver Nuggets in what's easily been the most entertaining series of the first round, the Warriors are putting up the kind of offensive performance that has folks speculating just how far this team can go.
Stephen Curry has taken over games for long stretches, and his postseason average of 27.3 points on 17-of-38 shooting from long range is really just the tip of the offensive iceberg for Golden State.
Although, maybe an iceberg isn't the best rhetorical device to describe a team that has been scorching hot from all over the floor. Through the first four games of the series, the Warriors have knocked down an incredible 53 percent of their shots, and 44 percent from long range.
And that's including a Game 1 that featured an obviously nervous, out-of-sync Warriors team. Since that 97-95 loss, Golden State has been spectacular on offense. It scored 131 points on 65 percent shooting in Game 2, 110 on 53 percent shooting in Game 3 and 115 on 56 percent shooting in Game 4.
And with all of the defensive attention paid toward Curry, the rest of the Warriors have been just as essential in the scoring blitz.
Jarrett Jack, pressed into starting duties since David Lee's season-ending injury in Game 1, has been averaging 20 points on 62 percent shooting in the series. His ability to share the ball-handling duties with Curry has been instrumental in maximizing Curry's skills as a shooter on the catch.
This list doesn't stop there, though, as rookie Harrison Barnes has put up 13.8 points per game on 50 percent shooting. Then there's Klay Thompson, Golden State's second-best shooter, who has poured in 15.5 points per game on 52 percent shooting.
Carl Landry has been dominant for stretches, both from mid-range and in the post, and Andrew Bogut completely controlled the first quarter Sunday. Even Draymond Green, who shot just 21 percent from beyond the arc in the regular season, has made half of his threes in the series.
Get the idea?
Obviously, these kinds of shooting numbers aren't sustainable. But the Warriors did knock down 40 percent of their threes during the season, which was tops in the NBA. So really, the 44 percent shooting from three-point land during this series isn't so far off from the norm.
Denver's ultra-aggressive defense has certainly helped things, as a trapping style has freed up Golden State's shooters on the quick ball rotation away from the double-team.
And naturally, one of the best counterarguments to the notion that the Warriors can keep up their scoring is the one that says the San Antonio Spurs, who await the series winner, are a much more conventionally stingy defensive outfit.
It stands to reason that the Spurs will make things tougher on the Warriors and their scoring run.
But how much more attention can the Spurs pay to Curry than the Nuggets currently are paying? Everything Denver does is geared toward getting the ball out of Curry's hands, and yet he's knocking down shots from all over the floor.
Basically, it's impossible for the Spurs to defend Curry any more intensely. So, if he stays in the same zone he's in right now, no amount of doubling, trapping or physical play is going to stop him. And if San Antonio opts to play Curry with just one defender, who knows what he'd do.
Golden State is a young team with room to grow, and really, it's the type of club that is supposed to be in the beginning stages of developing into merely a perennial playoff team. Usually, teams like this suffer a first-round knockout, return the next year with an eye toward advancing, and then, down the line, an eye toward the Finals.
But this team doesn't seem concerned with what it's supposed to be doing. Instead, it's a close-knit group with immense confidence and an attitude that says "we belong here." Besides, the model of incremental playoff advancement has never been tested with a team that shoots the ball like this.
Truthfully, merely advancing past the Nuggets in the first round would make this season an unqualified success. Remember, the Warriors won just 23 games in last year's lockout-shortened season.
But with a transcendent star like Stephen Curry and a supporting cast that can't seem to miss, this Warriors team might be able to ride its offensive hot streak to a deeper-than-expected playoff run.
*All stats via NBA.com and ESPN.com unless otherwise indicated.
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