The Golden State Warriors (41-3) recently pulled off a dominant 120-90 win against the San Antonio Spurs (38-7) at Oracle Arena. What was supposed to be a close game between the top two teams in the NBA turned into a laugher by the third quarter, when coaches began to pull their starters. The Dubs’ blowout victory is impressive when you consider that the Spurs have the NBA’s top defense, second-best record (behind the Dubs), and reigning Defensive Player of the Year in Kawhi Leonard.
We are learning a few lessons about the Warriors’ historic season.
1. The Dubs are unstoppable when reigning MVP Stephen Curry (who is averaging a league-leading 30.3 ppg) is on the court. Opposing teams are paranoid when it comes to giving Curry open space from which to launch those deadly threes. However, the threat of a Curry three pointer also lets other Warriors make easier shots, and that enables Steve Kerr’s team to be the most efficient offense in the NBA.
The uptempo pace and constant movement are confusing opposing teams. When eyeballs are fixated on Curry, his teammates make quick cuts to the basket for uncontested dunks and layups. The extra defensive pressure, the pick-and-roll, and Curry’s dribbling skills are creating opportunities for other Warriors to make open jump shots, dunks, and layups.
2. Curry’s health will determine whether the Warriors will win a second straight championship. The NBA MVP has been hampered by on-again/off-again leg injuries. So far, these health issues have not been serious enough to keep Curry off the court for significant stretches. And that’s good for Dubs fans because the Warriors look ordinary when Curry isn’t playing.
The Warriors do not seem talented enough to beat other top teams like the Cavaliers, Spurs, Thunder, and Bulls with Curry out of action. Steph creates so many scoring opportunities for his teammates that the Dubs absolutely need him to be healthy throughout the playoffs if they’re going to have a shot of getting past San Antonio, the L.A. Clippers, or OKC in the Western Conference.
3. Despite the Warriors’ dominance on offense, they’re still missing a big man who can score consistently. Centers Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli typically score no more than 6 or 8 points each per game. The defending champs seem to be overly reliant on Draymond Green down low, and unfortunately, there are no reliable bench options for replacing Green. An injured Green, who’s typically wrapped up in ice packs after a game, would doom the Warriors’ championship hopes.
With David Lee departed for Boston, Mo’ Speights hasn’t blossomed into the stretch four or five player that the Warriors need. This issue will need to be addressed in the upcoming free agency period during the offseason. In games where Curry or Klay Thompson struggle to find their shot, the Dubs find themselves in close games. Andre Iguodala is not contributing much on offense, and Harrison Barnes has not been explosive since spraining his ankle.
The Warriors are dominating the NBA, but they’ll also need to keep Curry and Green healthy. The NBA’s top one-two combination is indispensable to completing Golden State’s historic season.