NBA All-Star Weekend has come and gone, and the crazed frenzy that is the back stretch of the season will now commence. For the first time in a while, though, the Warriors find themselves in unfamiliar territory entering the playoffs push – that being, there’s a team above them in the standings.
With a home win over Phoenix prior to losing their final game before the All-Star break last week, Golden State’s record currently stands at 44-14 on the season, a half game behind Houston for the top record in the league. The Dubs have the same amount of victories as the Rockets, but one additional defeat, which meant the Warriors didn’t have the top-winning percentage in the NBA at the break for the first time in Steve Kerr’s tenure as head coach.
The difference in percentages is miniscule, however, so this could be a fluid situation throughout the rest of the regular season. In fact, that’s a good way to look at the Western Conference playoffs picture in general. The Warriors currently have a 9.5 game lead on San Antonio in third place, while the Spurs sit just 4.5 games ahead of Utah in 10th. This is going to come down to the final day(s), folks.
From a Warriors perspective, there are numerous reasons for optimism heading down the back stretch.
For one, the team’s offense is as good as ever. In fact, it is as good as any offense ever. Golden State are averaging 113.7 points per 100 possessions, which is on pace to be the highest in NBA history. That’s 0.5 points per 100 possessions more than they scored last season, and 4.0 points more than they scored in 2014-15 on their way to the title.
Then there’s the All-Star Game, itself. Perhaps you noticed the Warriors had a rather large presence in that exhibition, even if Team Stephen didn’t come away with the win. Between Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, the Dubs had four representatives in the All-Star Game for the second straight year. That’s not only a source of immense pride for the organization, it’s also unprecedented. Never before in the history of the league had a team had four All-Stars in back-to-back seasons. With those four All-Stars in tow, you have to feel good about Golden State’s chances in the 24 regular-season games that remain.
Speaking of the remaining schedule, that might be the biggest reason for optimism. Golden State’s remaining opponents have a combined winning percentage of .463; the remaining opponent winning percentage for every other team in the Western Conference is superior to that. And, already boasting the top road record in the league, the Warriors have only one remaining road trip of more than two games, a three-game East Coast swing at the end of this month. Every team in the NBA is capable of winning on any given night, but if you’re Golden State, you have to feel good about the way the schedule is set up from here on out.
Standout Spotlight: Kevin Durant
He was the lone Warriors player to be on the winning side in the All-Star Game, which capped off a highly efficient and milestone week for him as a member of Golden State.
First, in the Dubs’ win over the Suns, Durant scored 17 points on nine shot attempts, before recording his first-ever 50-point game in a Warriors uniform in the loss to the Trail Blazers. In both games, he also added seven rebounds, six assists and two blocks.
If you need a reminder of just how talented of a scorer Durant is, look no further than a sequence in the third quarter of that loss to Portland, in which KD converted not one, but two four-point plays in a span of 62 seconds.
Forget 62 seconds, or even a single quarter for that matter. Durant became the first player in franchise history with two four-point plays in the same game since Jamal Crawford did it back in 2009.
The Week Ahead
The Warriors went into the All-Star break with a two-game week, and they’ll come out of it in the exact same way. First up, Golden State will renew acquaintances with the Clippers on Thursday night in their fourth and final matchup this season, before taking on the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday night, with both games taking place at Oracle Arena. Both the Clippers and Thunder defeated the Warriors in their most recent encounters, meaning the Dubs should possess all of the necessary motivation to get off to a strong start to the playoffs push.