Graphic via the NBA's website
The Golden State Warriors have now won five straight games.
They initially struggled after forward Kevin Durant went out with a knee injury going 2-5 in the first seven games without Durant.
Now, the Warriors are playing the basketball they did last year when they went 73-9. Stephen Curry is back in MVP form, Klay Thompson is shooting lights out and, most importantly, Golden State is blowing teams out. The games are over before the second half, just like most were last season.
Without Durant, the Warriors have found their flow. The undeniable swagger they had last seasons seems to be back. Even the bench, who is ranked third in the NBA in the last five games as opposed to 15th for the entire year, is playing with immense confidence again. The bench, confidence and Steph Curry are what made the Warriors special last season.
This season, all three of those aspects of the Warriors are easily worse. The lack of a bench makes sense because they gave up Barnes, Bogut, Barbosa, and Ezeli for Durant. People thought Durant would make up for the lack of a bench. However, no one saw the dramatic decline of Curry, as discussed by Fox Sport’s Nick Wright, and the Warriors confidence.
Recently, Curry hasn’t been scoring more points, but he is shooting the three better and has become a more efficient basketball player. The points will come with more minutes, but since they are blowing teams out, his minutes are limited.
Klay Thompson has averaged 27 points per game in the last five up from his 22.3 average for the season. He is also shooting lights out, hitting over 50% of his threes in four of the five games with the one game still being a 7-15 shooting display from range.
Draymond Green is back to playing his type of basketball. He isn’t scoring a ton, but is rebounding and assisting his teammates and has been close to getting triple doubles in most of the last five games. He is also playing physical basketball, which is no coincident that his team just got in a fight with OKC last weekend and are playing good basketball.
The three main pieces to the Warriors have found their old form. I believe they were too busy trying to get Durant to fit into the team and they forgot about making sure they are playing well and with confidence. Durant was so great that he was able to make up for the lack of confidence in the team, but they were definitely not playing up to their potential.
Now, there is no doubt the Warriors have been worse with Durant. However, the rediscovered confidence could go a long way into making the Warriors into one of the greatest teams of all time again. If they can keep their confidence when Durant gets back, adding the second best player in the world to an extremely confident bunch will be scary for other teams in the NBA.
Lastly, Curry needs to know it is his team. He doesn’t need to sacrifice for Durant, rather Durant needs to sacrifice for him. Curry needs the ball in his hand and to be the guy so he can have that swagger. Once Curry and Golden State regain that swagger, they will undeniably be the NBA champions and a difficult force to stop for years to come.
Remember these guys before Durant, let’s see them again: