Down 22 points, staring at what was quickly looking like to be Golden State’s third loss in five games, Stephen Curry provided the fans and his teammates an unbelievable performance in a comeback victory against the Dallas Mavericks. It looked like it was about to get ugly quick and Curry seemed to be the only player that had anything going for him in the 1st quarter (11 points), but the Warriors stayed resilient, chipping away and ultimately walking away with the victory with Curry leading the way with a season-high 51-points, knocking down 10 3-PT FG.
There’s no doubt that this was a statement game, but it’s not like they needed to make a statement with a Western Conference-leading record of 38-8 going into last night’s game. So what did they show? Here are my three biggest takeaways from last night’s game:
Golden State Should Be Considered Title Favorites
After trailing 40-18 with 1:23 left in the first quarter, Golden State stormed back to take the lead late in the third quarter; at the 2:51 mark to be exact. Whenever a game reaches a 20-point differential, it’s almost a foregone conclusion that the game is over. Not for Golden State as it took only 22:32 of game time to come back and snatch the lead in the third quarter.
Think about that for a second, it took them less than two quarters of game-time to erase a 22-point deficit.
Golden State has been the model of consistency all season but what makes this team most dangerous is when they play at home. Their home crowd is making a case for the best “6th Man” in the league if they didn’t have that already. Even down by 22 in the 1st quarter, the crowd became raucous, providing the players with support and fanfare and they fed off that.
Barring any catastrophic collapse, Golden State will most likely have home-court advantage for at least two rounds in the playoffs. Why is that so important? Well, they’ve only lost twice at home. Not something you would want to hear if you’re Golden State’s opponent. The Warriors have been running the table on opponents at home, averaging 114.8 points with a plus-minus of 16.0. The next best plus-minus at home is the Los Angeles Clippers with 8.7.
So what? They like to run and gun and not play defense, right?
Golden State leads the NBA in OPP FG % at home, holding opponents to 42.1% shooting largely in part of Draymond Green (1st in Defensive Win Shares) and Curry, whose defensive abilities will be mentioned later on. Golden State has become the perfect example of how basketball should be played and there’s no reason to believe they won’t keep it up.
There’s Still Room For Improvement
Last night, we saw how dominant Dallas was in the first quarter and that can be attributed to Golden State’s slow starts. While GS is averaging a tick over 28-points in the first quarter, they are also giving up an average of 26-points in the first quarter. They actually give up more points in the 1st quarter at home than any other team in the NBA. Improvements have to be made to start the game off stronger to avoid slow defensive starts and putting themselves in an undesirable situation.
Much of their slow starts can be attributed to their inability to consistently grab rebounds. Golden State is allowing 3.0 Offensive Rebounds Per Game in the 1st Quarter. Only two other teams in the NBA are giving up offensive rebounds at a higher rate, Milwaukee and Dallas.
Golden State’s deficiencies on the glass showed against Dallas, allowing four offensive rebounds in the first quarter and a total of 14 in the game. Dallas outscored Golden State in the paint as well, holding a 50-34 advantage. For a team that does it all, this few things might be their only weakness.
Curry Solidifying His MVP Case
Stephen Curry’s stat-line reads: 23.6 points, 8.1 assists, 4.7 rebounds, 2.1 steals, 48.9% FG, 40.4% 3-PT, and 91% FT. You can’t make those numbers up. Even in NBA 2K, those numbers would be difficult to replicate. Although it is easy to credit the team as whole for the success of Golden State, there’s no doubt that Curry has been the catalyst for Golden State’s dominance.
While Curry’s offensive prowess might be the biggest highlight on his MVP resume, it’s actually his defensive abilities that solidify his case. Curry leads the NBA in total steals with 100. Curry along with James Harden & Trevor Ariza of the Houston Rockets are the only players ranked in the top 10 in steals and 3-PT FG. Curry is ranked higher than both of these players. He’s also ranked 7th in Defensive Win Shares along with Harden and John Wall, the only guards ranked amongst the top-10.
It’s clear that Curry has become a threat all around the floor. He has led Golden State to a 39-8 record in the Western Conference. If rewarding winning as well as individual accolades is going to be the trend as we saw in the selection of all five Hawks’ starters for January Player of the Month award, then the MVP award might be making its way toward Golden State.