Preview: all gas, no brakes Warriors look to blast past Hornets
two fast-paced teams face off for the second time this season with a Sunday afternoon battle
Nearly a month into the season, and the Golden State Warriors have smashed through just about everything the league has thrown at them - the sole loss being a three-point overtime affair. Now, the eight game homestand has come to a close, and the Warriors are hitting the road in a four game trip that includes the mighty Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers. But not yet. First, they’ve got to handle some preliminary business.
Tonight’s opponent, the Charlotte Hornets are a bit on the soft side. Sporting one of the league’s best offenses (ranked sixth at time of writing) but hampered by the fourth worst defense, the team is well below average when it comes to net impact. These teams already met a couple weeks ago, a game the Warriors won handily with a score of 114-92.
On the injury front, Damion Lee was still listed on the injury report as questionable at time of writing. Coach Steve Kerr said that it “wasn’t anything serious” ahead of the last game, so we will keep you posted as information becomes available.
WHO: Golden State Warriors (11-1) at Charlotte Hornets (7-7)
WHEN: Sunday, November 14, 2021 // 4:00 pm PDT ←EARLY!
The Warriors are good. Damn good.
Pardon my language, but I have been legitimately impressed with the Golden State Warriors, and I hope you are too. Sure, the extended home cooking against a bunch of non-playoff teams may be like a simple meal, but those are some of the most delicious ones! While I’ll leave the proselytizing to others, the Warriors have begun to stack up enough evidence that you don’t need an impenetrable faith to believe in this iteration of the Warriors.
Net rating is a very straightforward measure of point differential, equalized for pace of play. In looking at the NBA advanced stats page, it was hard not to notice how far in front these Warriors are. Their current rating (plus 14.1 points per 100 possessions) is nearly double that of the second-best team. I spent way to much time fooling around with the underlying data for this graphic - in the end, I had to cut it off at the Hornets (which ends up excluding nine teams) because the scale gets too massive. Golden State hasn’t just been winning, they’ve been absolutely smashing their opponents.
With the best defensive rating, and the second-best offensive rating, the Warriors are running over people like Bo Jackson in Tecmo Bowl.
First, the defense - which will probably matter a bit more today as the Hornets offense is their strength. Golden State has prioritized defense since the arrival of Andre Iguodala and Andrew Bogut all those years ago. With a well-coached roster full of heady IQ players, the Warriors swarm attackers with a rotating cast of solid on-ball defenders and willing helpers. Check out this clip of the Bulls game - and remember that the Bulls were largely flagged as a “test” because of their strong offense.
The Bulls vaunted offense went from the 6th best prior to the game to the 9th - barely holding on to a spot in the top 10 (by 0.02 points per 100 possessions). In a team sport, it’s important to understand the synergy between players. Stephen Curry has managed to turn himself into a stout defender, and the return of Andre Iguodala and an invigorated Draymond Green, combined with a revamped supporting cast, has turned the Warriors defense back into the monster that cast fear into the hearts of opposing coaches.
Hero ball? The Warriors have excellent point of attack personnel for ball handlers, wings, and bigs. Ball movement-based systems? You better look out for the busy hands of Gary Payton!
And then there’s the thing that Stephen Curry’s Warriors are more well known for: offense.
Not just any old offense though. The sort of twisting, turning mosh pit of an attack that is nearly impossible to keep up with over the course of a full game.
Watch this play here.
Note first that when Green comes up, he motions for Curry to come around and get the ball, which is facilitated by Jordan Poole smoothly slipping a pretend screen and cutting hard to the basket. Then while Caruso is looking at the ball from a strong deny position, Curry, Green and Looney all have a shared non-verbal communication moment, where they jointly decide on a lead pass from Green, thrown far enough out front that Curry can use a Looney screen on his way to an open catch and shoot three.
It’s like playing Pictionary against a pair of twins that went to art school together.
Friend of the Nation, Joe Viray called out something else that I wanted to highlight here. One of the things that I think has helped propel the Warriors to their strong start is that sense of familiarity so prominently on display in the play above. But it’s levelled up.
Green, Curry, Looney, and other guys like Toscano-Anderson and Payton have been around long enough to understand the base sets - a stark contrast to last season’s early phase. Having this established base in place is allowing this team to evolve. (Also, good lord is this some fantastic content from Joe!)
Running the same sorts of sets since Kerr’s arrival, there a very established rhythm to the interplay between the Warriors offense and how teams defend Curry. It led to the dreaded Box+1, and one of the secrets to pushing this team back to another championship this season is going to be having a more reliable counterpunch for when things aren’t going well.
New wrinkles are a necessity. Sometimes that comes from new personnel, or it could be returning old friends - but it seems important to me that the Warriors are comfortable enough this early in the season to be adding new little wrinkles to their playbook.