As the Warriors continue down the road toward securing their first playoff appearance since 2007, we’re getting to know more and more about the team.
They’re better defensively than they’ve been in the recent past; their 3-point shooting is a devastating weapon; they’re rebounding well; and they seem to have developed legitimate chemistry.
But if some recent games are any indication, the Warriors are going to have to figure out a way to deal with something that’s given them some trouble: Pressure.
We’re not talking end-game pressure, we’re talking pressure on the ball.
At various times this season, the Warriors have struggled when the opposition has picked up their defense – particularly in the backcourt.
While the three-guard rotation of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Jarrett Jack has been a big bright spot for Golden State, each has struggled at times dealing the with the pressure and hounding of opposing backcourts.
Turnovers have been a problem for the Warriors this year. They average 15.6 per game, second-worst in the league. But it’s not just the turnovers. Sometimes pressure forces the Warriors to get into their offense late or take quick shots.
Or sometimes the wrong guy ends up with the ball come decision-time on the shot clock.
In the Warriors’ 92-75 loss to the Heat on Wednesday, they committed 18 turnovers. Curry, of course, didn’t play in the game and that may be part of the high-turnover count.
But Curry committed six turnovers against Miami in mid-December, including three late in the fourth quarter. Jack has been hit by the turnover bugaboo, recently, and Thompson has had turnover and decision-making issues all season.
It seems apparent that teams are going to start “getting into” the Warriors guards. Whether it’s by size, strength or quickness, opposing teams are likely going to start trying to get the Warriors to play in a more uncomfortable manner.
Curry and David Lee have thrived this season running the pick and roll, with Curry being able to deliver the ball to Lee, and then for Lee to make a play in kind-of a four-on-three situation.
Slowly but surely, teams are beginning to address that. Whether it’s Miami blitzing the pick-and-roll or guards like Ty Lawson, Chris Paul, Eric Bledsoe, Mike Conley and others pestering in the backcourt – the Warriors’ guards are almost assuredly going to see more pressure.
They’re also likely to feel more physicality, too. It’s no secret that Curry and Thompson aren’t the strongest players in the league so why wouldn’t teams try to beat them up and wear them down?
You could make a case that the Warriors don’t have a true point guard on the roster, and that ballhandling and decision-making suffer because of it.
Both Curry and Jack have played large parts of their careers off the ball, and we all know playing point guard is a lot different than playing shooting guard.
Curry, Thompson and Jack have formed an effective three-guard rotation, and it’s been a big part of the team’s success and why Golden State’s record is 23-14.
As the Warriors look to break their five-year playoff drought and we head into the meaty portion of the schedule, games will become more intense and defensive pressure is certain to pick up.
It will be up to Curry, Thompson and Jack to deal with it – and they need to start doing a better job of it than they’ve done so far.