The Golden State Warriors have jumped out of the gate during the second half of the season, because the team found the keys to get back on track. After a couple of debilitating loses and a true nail-biter, the Dubs have returned to their style of play that puts them in contention to do damage in the playoffs.
The Dubs have posted an 11-4 record since the All-Star break and moved from a questionable playoff spot to the sixth position. The team has closed in on the once-hot Portland Trail Blazers for fifth, but it will be a tough road to secure a home playoff series.
So how did this squad transform from underachieving to resembling a squad similar to last season’s playoff run?
Acquisition of Steve Blake
The first key in the transformation was the acquisition of point guard Steve Blake. He filled a huge hole on the team by being able to play the backup point position.
He has guided the bench from league lows to challenging the mid-to-elite teams in recent weeks. Coach Mark Jackson was afraid to use his substitutes, as shown by the league-worst minutes per game before the trade.
With a competent guard, Coach Jackson has used his bench an average of 100 minutes per game in the past 10 through March 15, compared to the season average of 75. All of the averages have increased during that span as a result.
The biggest benefit of the acquisition is the rest given to the starting five. Stephen Curry has only surpassed the 40-minute mark one time since the trade, which will give him more life when the playoffs begin.
As the season grows closer to the end, rotations will shorten up and Blake will be playing more minutes with the starters. He gives Coach Jackson the opportunity to take the ball out of Curry’s hands and let him create from the 2 spot.
Andre Iguodala has been criticized so much this season for his play. Yes, he has not been the offensive force fans expected, but he has been the foundation of the perimeter defense.
In the clip below, Iguodala shows why he is so valuable on both ends of the court.
He fronts the opponent’s most dangerous perimeter player, while he saves most of his offensive moves for the stretch run and playoffs.
Along with Iguodala’s unselfish play, Draymond Green is really bringing it to the floor. He is the guy who always puts in the extra effort and will do whatever it takes to gain possession.
Green can guard all five positions, and he is asserting his will playing both forward positions and is now fifth in the Association in defensive rating.
As a culture shift, Green is noticing the players are a lot more vocal by talking on the floor. Players understand their assignments a lot better than mostly having to rely on Andrew Bogut to bark out the orders.
The last stop on the court belongs to Bogut, who is reclaiming his position as top frontcourt defender. He brings the intensity, makes the blocks and tears down the crucial rebounds.
He also is the captain of the bigs, who calls out his players and makes sure they are in the correct positions on the floor. If you put it all together, Bogut is worth his weight by currently claiming the top defensive rating.
However, while Bogut was out injured, Jermaine O’Neal provided some quality defense, including a game-saving block in a must-win vs. the Houston Rockets on February 20.
Combining all of the pieces, including the hard work by Klay Thompson, the Warriors have held opponents to the second-worst field-goal percentage since the All-Star break.
Total Team Effort
The team ran into mediocrity and the #FullSquad was quickly dismissed. Their record is now 30-12 through March 16 after winning five straight before the loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on March 12.
At the end of that streak, Curry ran into a problem with a strained right quad. He’s played through it, but coach Jackson has been forced to use his bench more than expected.
However, the team has upgraded the use of its big men on the offensive side of the ball. David Lee is consistent, but Bogut and O’Neal have gotten more involved.
Bogut put up 15 points and 10 boards against the Dallas Mavericks on March 11, and O’Neal has four double-digit efforts since the All-Star break. O’Neal is playing like he is in his 20s again.
Putting it All Together
As long as the ball continues to get spread around, and Curry switches between the perimeter and kicking it down to the front court, the Warriors will be knocking on the door. They just have to be more consistent the whole game, instead of having to make miracle comebacks.
With not many games left in the season, it is time for the Warriors to show last season wasn’t a fluke.