Don’t look now, but the Golden State Warriors have started rolling pretty well without Kevin Durant. When Durant suffered a hyperextended knee in late February, things looked bad for Steve Kerr’s crew. The Warriors had, of course, been a top-heavy team relying on Durant for their dominant offense. After his injury, the Warriors went 2-5 – their worst stretch of regular season games in three years.
But since then, they seem to have regained their momentum, plowing through 9 straight victories. Those included impressive wins over the Grizzlies and the Rockets. But most notably, they scored an important win over the San Antonio Spurs, who had already embarrassed them twice this season. Stephen Curry and company ensured that at least they would not be swept in the season series.
One notable thing that has happened since Durant was benched to rest his knee? Stephen Curry is recovering his MVP-level playing from last season. Yes, he did have a stretch of games where he shot below 30%. But since then, he’s picked it up again, highlighted by going 4-of-8 against the Spurs.
According to Colin Cowherd of Fox Sports, “One of the things when KD came to Golden State is that they just added more of what they did – another really great shooter. And if you look at the all-time great teams they tended to be… fairly layered.”
In the month of March, the Golden State Warriors are leading the league defensively. Somehow, Steve Kerr has managed the right rotations and assignments necessary to compensate for Durant’s missing firepower.
If they improve their defense efficiency just a little more over the last eight games, they could even overtake the Spurs overall (the Spurs lead that with 100.9 right now; the Warriors are 101.0). Then they would wind up leading the league in both offense and defense – a feat that was last accomplished by Michael Jordan’s Bulls in ’96.
So what happens when Durant returns? Kerr will need to consider that the best line-up when protecting a lead may not involve Durant on the floor. And the Golden State Warriors learned the hard way last year that no lead is safe.
The Number One Seed
The victory over the Spurs was not just important for getting over their hump. With the victory, they cushioned their lead in the standings to 3.5 games – one that now looks unlikely for San Antonio to overcome. If Golden State secures home court advantage throughout the Playoffs and Finals, it would be a huge step toward redeeming their last season trip at the finish line.
The Golden State Warriors boast a 31-4 record at home right now. Statistically, a game in the Oracle Arena is the toughest to win in the NBA.
But the Larry O’Brien trophy isn’t handed out in April. We’ll see how this all works out for them in the post-season.