The Golden State Warriors will more than likely win 73 or more games this season, but will that leave them unprepared for the postseason?
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When it comes to the world of basketball, I hate hypotheticals. I hate the “what if” scenarios fans resort to talking about when the facts just aren’t enough. Take for instance the possibility of this latest incarnation of the Golden State Warriors failing to win another NBA title this year.
Of course, let’s be real: the possibility of them failing to repeat as champions is entirely feasible. Not many teams have been able to do it. Not many teams ever will. As good as this team is, they’ve still lost seven games this season, most of which can be considered pretty “embarrassing,” for lack of a better word.
But is it likely they lose out on a chance to go back to back?
The Warriors have a chance to win 73 or more games this season, and they continue to put up historical numbers statistically. In all honestly, they look very much improved after already recording historical numbers last season, which is scary to think about.
While there is a small group of basketball fans out there that fail to acknowledge the greatness of this team — as there was in 1996 when Michael Jordan‘s Chicago Bulls were on their way to 72 regular season wins — the fact of that matter is Golden State is an incredible team capable of incredible things, and I — along with many others — doubt this team will let a chance to make history slip through their fingers.
But as a fan of the game first and foremost, I have to be open to the possibility of this team failing to meet the expectations of the world, no matter how unlikely that scenario may be; that, and it’s really no fun if you’re just sitting around waiting for this team to win the title again, which I’m sure a good number of basketball fans around the world have been doing for the majority of this year.
So allow me to be a hypocrite, allow me to explore these hypotheticals for the sake of conversation, and let’s talk about which team has the best chance of upsetting the Warriors in the playoffs this year.
Thankfully, I don’t have to make one of those God-forsaken slideshow articles to write this, because if you’ve been watching basketball all year, you’d know there’s really just one team everyone thinks has the best chance of taking the crown away from the Warriors: the San Antonio Spurs.
San Antonio is an obvious pick for obvious reasons. First off, as the saying goes, “Offense wins games, defense wins championships.” We saw said saying exemplified last year when Golden State — the best defensive team in 2015 — took the league by storm and won their first franchise title in 40 years.
This year, Golden State remains in the top-5 best defensive teams in the NBA, but the new leader in defensive efficiency is the San Antonio Spurs. The old black and white currently sport the best defensive rating in the league (95.6), holding opponents to a league-best 92.3 points per game and 43.2 percent shooting.
However, whoever said defense wins championships probably didn’t live to see this Warriors team in action offensively.
Lucky for us, not only have we been able to see Golden State tear up the hardwood with their high octane pace, sharpshooting prowess and heavy ball movement sets, but we’ve also been able to see them dominate the Spurs already this season at Oracle Arena, a contest that resulted in the Warriors taking complete advantage of a Spurs team that was unfortunate in being caught with their pants down.
And that wasn’t even Golden State’s best game of the season.
But the Spurs are still the Spurs, a model of consistency that has defeated not just the best players and teams the league has had to offer over the past couple decades or so, but Father Time himself (or Mother Time, time doesn’t really need to be gender specific).
Like the Warriors, they’ve remained unbeaten at home this season (35-0), and had someone asked me what the chances were of San Antonio being much more prepared in their next matchup with Golden State, I would have said their chances were higher than a certain Splash Brother during his last year in college.
As things turn out, I would have been right, as the Spurs were able to pull out the 87-79 win over Golden State in San Antonio on Saturday night. Though it’s necessary to mention Golden State was without Andrew Bogut, Festus Ezeli, and Andre Iguodala on the back end of a back-to-back after playing nine games over the span of 14 days, the fact of the matter was the Spurs had a well formulated gameplan, and they executed it well.
Long story short: the Spurs were locked in defensively early on, dictating the pace and limiting the Splash Brothers from start to finish. Together, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson shot a combined 11-of-38 from the field, going 2-for-19 from behind the arc. For those that don’t follow basketball that often, that’s like, really bad.
Talking more about San Antonio’s pace (number of possessions per 48 minutes): the Warriors are one of the fastest teams in the league pace-wise, averaging 101.98 possessions per 48 minutes. San Antonio is one of the slower teams in the league, averaging 96.25 possessions per 48 minutes.
On Saturday night, the Spurs limited Golden State to 90.16 possessions. Each starter plus Marreese Speights posted a pace at or over 90 except for Curry, who posted a pace of 87.80. That’s significantly low for Curry, who leads the league in pace through 60 games at 104.38.
Some of Curry’s worst games have come IN San Antonio, so that’s definitely going to have to change if the Warriors want to advance past the Western Conference Finals confidently, but as it is with everything, there’s a silver lining: the Warriors have played great coming off a loss, even more so in revenge games, so I fully expect Golden State to be ready next time around.
However, if the Dubs allow the Spurs to establish their slow pace in the playoffs — a time that we all expect the game to slow down — I just can’t see Golden State repeating as champions. I’d never rule out the Warriors in any matchup, but I’d be lying if I said I thought the Warriors were going to win in San Antonio on Saturday, and I’d be lying if I said I would expect a depleted Golden State roster to win if they allowed SA to control the tempo over the course of a 7-game playoff series. That’s just logical.
Having this many wins puts the Warriors in a “championship or bust” situation. Warriors should by all means go for 73 wins and make history while they still have the opportunity, but not at the expense of losing in the postseason. Rest the guys, get healthy, be ready for the repeat.
The problem with even thinking about doing that: the Spurs are still on their heels, threatening to steal home court advantage in the postseason, so The Team from the Town may very well need 73 wins JUST to secure the first seed in the playoffs.
Cheers to you, San Antonio. Well played.
All statistical evidence used in the article is accurate as of Sunday, March 20, 2016 per NBA.com/Stats.