There’s a lot of “mark of a good team” tenets out there. Good teams defend, good teams win the games they should, all that stuff. Today’s edition of “the mark of a good team” comes from the last two Warriors games, actually: The mark of a good team is when they can win after playing poorly for a significant portion of a game.
Much like in the game against Minnesota on Monday, the Warriors started out dreadfully on offense. Missing shots, forcing shots, passes to Festus Ezeli when he wasn’t looking, all of the things that make an offense look gross. It may not have looked as easy as it did in Minneapolis, but the Warriors pulled away at the end of Wednesday night’s win against the Houston Rockets, turning a close contest into a 105-93 win with a 32-17 fourth quarter.
That’s 14 wins in a row for the Warriors, who are 19-2. For those who are new to this Warriors thing, this is a franchise that went 19-63 in 1997-98, 19-63 two seasons later, and 17-65 in 2000-01. Much like the oh-so-fun Warriors teams of Nellie past, the Warriors picked up their latest win by going small.
They were pretty much forced into going relatively dimunitive, with Andrew Bogut and Dwight Howard unavailable. But the Warriors really took off with a lineup of Stephen Curry, Shaun Livingston, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, and Draymond Green at the five.
Barnes had the kind of game we didn’t see much of in 2013-14. He scored 20 points, something he did only five times in 2013-14. He made 78% of his shots, something he didn’t do in a single game last season. He made three three-pointers, something he did only … three times in his second NBA season. He made the most memorable assist of the game, on a give-and-go to Livingston that brought to mind visions of Rick Barry (fake a long-distance shot without leaving your feet, throw a pass to a cutter).
Curry went 4-for-5 in that fourth quarter, and Thompson had that sequence where he blocked James Harden’s shot and followed with a scoop/floater/finger-roll at the other end to give Golden State a 96-89 lead. But Green was probably the difference, as he often seems to be in a season where it gets clearer by the game that the Warriors simply cannot afford to let him leave. If that means trading one of the higher-salaried players on the team, that’s what it’ll have to take.
The defense will get most of the attention, and that’s usually a good thing considering the old all-offense-no-defense narrative no longer applies. Strong defense is also the reason why the Rockets are 16-5, and the Warriors accomplished quite a lot offensively. The Rockets are the No. 3 FG% defensive team in the league — the Warriors shot 49.4% from the floor. The Rockets are the best team at defending the three, with opposing teams making just 27.7% coming into this game — the Warriors went a respectable 34.8% (8-for-23, and that included a 1-for-8 long-distance brickfest from Thompson).
Pretty impressive final stats in all, considering the Warriors only went 7-for-20 in the first quarter, 1-for-9 on threes. The Rockets were having their way with the Warriors in the early stages, and logic said the winning streak would end at 13 games. Instead, they’ll head to Dallas with a chance to push it to 15 against the flying Montas.
— The Warriors absolutely abused Jason Terry, a finesse combo guard who isn’t quite as fast as he used to be in his 27th year in the league. He’s the kind of player who can take advantage of the attention Harden draws and knock down some shots against most teams, but the Warriors hound everyone these days. Poor Terry finished 1-for-7 (0-for-5 on threes), and was -20 on the night.
— Harden put up one of the nicest stat lines the Warriors have surrendered all season: 34 points, eight rebounds, four assists, four steals. He was also one of the reasons why Barnes went 7-of-9 from the floor.
— Mo Speights wasn’t a factor when the Warriors pulled away at the end, but it’s wild that he had 15 points and eight rebounds in just under 20 minutes and it seemed completely normal.
— Also completely normal: Andre Iguodala going 0-for-4 and scoring one point in 24 minutes. That’s the third time he’s gone 0-for-4 in a game this season and scored one point or fewer (he pitched a shutout against himself when the Warriors beat the Hornets). Iguodala is officially a defensive specialist now; he’s a career 14.4 points per game scorer who’s averaging just 6.5 ppg this year.
— One of the great things about Speights: whenever he draws contact in the lane, you can hear him yell. It helps that he has one of the more distinctive voices in the NBA.
— Joe Lacob is usually cheering more crazily than anyone else sitting courtside, but Peter Guber was even more excited than Lacob after Thompson put the Warriors up seven in the fourth quarter with that underhand floater.