The Golden State Warriors’ first week of the regular season is complete with lots of good, bad and ugly to analyze in their three-game stretch.
The defending champs played three games, starting with their opening night victory against the Russell Westbrook-less Oklahoma City Thunder team on ring night, a one-point win against a rising Western Conference power in the Utah Jazz and a close loss on Sunday night in the Mile High city against the Denver Nuggets.
Let’s start with some good news.
Superstar point guard, Stephen Curry, has scored 30 or more points in the first three games of the regular season. He scored 32 points against the Thunder on ring night, 31 points against the Jazz and 30 points against the Nuggets on Sunday night. Two out of those three teams are playing with a rugged, physical defensive style trying to bump and knock Curry off of his game. So far, that does not seem to be the case.
He is playing as if he wants to remind the rest of the league that he is one of the best players in the game. Maybe, he is trying to thrust himself into the early conversation for the MVP award, an accolade he won in 2014-15 and 2015-16. Through the first week of the season, Curry is averaging 31.0 ppg, 7.7 apg and 5.3 rpg on 50.7 percent shooting from the field, including 47.1 percent from beyond the arc.
Center Kevon Looney is looking more and more comfortable on the floor playing with the All-Stars. His experience of playing in the Western Conference Finals against the Houston Rockets last May looks like its paying big dividends. He is getting into the right position to battle for offensive rebounds and get a few putback dunks. On the defensive side of the ball, Looney is contesting shots and blocking shots at the rim. He is switching out on guards, sliding his feet and staying with them. His help defense has become a strong suit of his game as he is rotating over for a deflection or a block that will start a fast break the other way for the Warriors.
In addition to Looney, Damian Jones is finally receiving his opportunity to start at center for Golden State. He is making the most of his opportunity, blocking shots and catching lob passes from Curry and Draymond Green. He is recognizing where he needs to be to have an opportunity to score and how to defend. However, Jones still goes for pump fakes and is in the incorrect position to secure a rebound, but all of those issues can be cleaned up with the more experience and playing time he receives.
Now, some of the issues from the first three-game slate of the season.
The defense from the first three games was not up to par with how the team was defensively last season. Yes, it’s only been three games and there are 79 more to go in the regular season, but it is better to build good habits now than in April come playoff time. In this young season so far, the Warriors’ defensive rating is 104.5, which is good for eighth in the league. Last season, they were 11th in the league in defensive rating. For a team full of defensive stalwarts, Golden State is not doing itself any favors giving up 100, 123 and 100 in the three games. The number that pops out is 123, which is what the Warriors gave up to the Jazz on Friday night, including 81 points in the first half alone.
In addition, they gave up a Jazz franchise record 19 made triples, where some of them came off of poor transition defense. The Warriors have shown flashes of their championship defense, including holding Utah to only 42 points in the second half and solid defense against the Nuggets on Sunday. Golden State is fully capable of putting it all together on the defensive end, it is just a matter of focus and knowing when to rotate to help when one of them gets beat off the dribble.
One of the most surprising issues the Warriors are having is three-point shooting. Normally, this would not be a problem because of the team possessing three of the greatest three-point marksmen, but two out of the three stars are having trouble igniting the fuse. Through three games, Kevin Durant is 1-of-10 from beyond the arc and Klay Thompson is 2-of-16 from the three-point line.
However, it is not just the stars who are struggling from the three-point line, it is the whole team, everyone not named Curry. Curry is shooting 16-of-34 on the season, good for 47.1 percent from beyond the arc.
Most notable Warriors stat through three games: The non Steph Curry portion of their roster is a combined 8-of-40 from 3.
— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) October 22, 2018
The Warriors are top-heavy with their shooters and do not have many players who shoot the three-ball as much as Curry, Durant and Thompson do. There are certainly a couple of capable shooters such as newcomer, Jonas Jerebko, and backup point guard Quinn Cook. But so far, they have not received enough minutes to be able to hoist three-point shots at a high rate. It is a minor blip in the three games played so far, but when the Warriors emerge out of their shooting slump, they could get steamrolling.
Last, but not least the ugly.
Turnovers have been the Achilles’ heel of the team since Steve Kerr took the reigns in 2014-15. He lets them play with a fun, free and loose energy. While that may be entertaining at times, it can be their own worst enemy and this is how the Warriors can potentially be beat. They can beat themselves with the wild behind-the-back passes and throwing passes into tight quarters, which there are no passing lanes available, making it more challenging for teammates to try to catch those passes.
Through three games, Golden State is averaging 18.7 turnovers per game, which is 28th in the league, per NBA.com, and that’s not a good statistic to be at the bottom of when trying to compete for a championship. Turnovers hand an opportunity for the opposition to score. It hurts this offensive machine when they do not get a shot on goal. Turnovers need to be cleaned up for Golden State to reach its maximum potential on the offensive end.
All in all, it was a decent start for the defending champions for the first week of the season, going 2-1, with the one loss being at Denver. There were some good notes such as the play of Curry, Looney and Jones, with some aspects of the game needing to be cleaned up with the biggest being the three-point shooting and the ugliest characteristic are the turnovers. It is a long season ahead with many aspects of the game needed to be improved for the back-to-back champions.