Wednesday night the Warriors faced their steepest test in weeks, barely forcing overtime before pulling ahead to notch win number 68. Seven thoughts from a wild game:
1: Draymond Green is a defensive monster – Praise is rightfully due to Kawhi Leonard, but can anyone truly match Draymond’s versatility? Green played stout defense on Jazz center Rudy Gobert all night, despite giving up seven inches to the Stifle Tower. Then on the last play of regulation he shut down point guard Shelvin Mack to force overtime, where he uncorked another brilliant defensive possession on Joe Ingles. The guy is a monster.
2: Rodney Hood is an ascending talent – The Jazz shooting guard was tremendous executing Utah’s defensive scheme, switching nearly every screen and bothering the Warriors’ shooters all night long. Because both he and Gordon Hayward can handle the ball, it frees the Jazz up moving forward to slot in Dante Exum as more of an off-ball point guard.
3: Curry can hit any shot, but he’s still bothered by tough defense – As San Antonio has previously shown, the right combination of scheme and talent can slow Curry down during a game, and Utah did as well as anyone in keeping the presumed-MVP from destroying them. He scored 31 points, but on an uncharacteristically-high 23 shots, and nearly all of his looks would have been terrible shots for anyone else in the league. Major kudos to Utah for defending as well as they did.
4: Lack of passing will keep Utah from reaching its potential – Utah has a quartet of starters – Hood, Hayward, Derrick Favors, and Gobert – that rival anyone in the league, but they combined for three assists between them. The bench in total only added two more. They lost to a team that averages 29 per game. If this group can increase their ball movement over the offseason they could be primed for another jump next year.
5: The Warriors need to stop playing Anderson Varejao – The Brazilian center was a decent pickup as a reserve big, and needed playing time to acclimate to the system, but he’s been terrible when on the court this season. Varejao finished 0-2 with only one rebound and one assist in nine minutes. While the return of Festus Ezeli should force him out, Steve Kerr should just end this now and let Speights and McAdoo soak up those minutes until Ezeli is back.
6: No one is better in crunch time than Golden State – The NBA defines “crunch time” as a game being within five points with five minutes or less to go in the fourth quarter or overtime. When a game has entered crunch time, the Warriors are 28-2. That blows away the rest of the league. This is more than luck – when the game is on the line, the Warriors hit another gear.
7: The record is going down – This was probably the toughest game left outside of the Spurs, and the Warriors managed to pull it off. With San Antonio almost certainly resting their core players when they come to Oakland, and three of the last seven games left against the Timberwolves and Grizzlies, it is increasingly likely that the Chicago Bulls’ record goes down. All hail the greatest season of all time. Next up? Boston at home on Friday night.