Dubs Lead

Warriors Overcome Nuggets, Officiating

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The Warriors dominated the Denver Nuggets for the third time this season. In what has been dubbed as a showdown for the West thrice, the Dubs have easily defeated the Nuggets every time. The Dubs now have the easiest path to winning the West. Despite all the ups and downs, they are leading the conference – a feat they didn’t achieve last year. They crushed the Charlotte Hornets in the game prior and are generally looking dominant in all phases of the game. Their style of play and enthusiasm seem to be at a season high. The ball is hopping around and shots are falling just in time for the playoffs.

The last 2 wins might be a great indicator of what is to come for the Warriors. But the real catalyst and pivot-point for all this might have been their game last Friday. Sometimes, weird losses bring teams together better than anything else. For these Warriors, who are often bored and distracted during the regular season, it’s not a bad thing to find a common enemy to focus on. They might have found that enemy last Friday in Minnesota in the form of the referees for better or for the worse.

Crazy Night in Minny!

That game Friday night was one of the craziest games of the season. Just to recap, they lost to the Timberwolves in overtime after leading by 19 points early in the third quarter. Not only did they lose the entire lead even before the 4th quarter began, they actually had to come back twice later in this game – both times from 9 down, once to send it to OT and once to almost send it to double OT. The situation then got really crazy towards the end of OT. Two controversial calls back-to-back swung the game against the Warriors. There were multiple reasons for the Dubs to be upset after this finish. You be the judge of the 2 calls in question:

 

Close Finish and High Drama

This game was entertaining and fun, except for the result if you are a Dubs fan. Stephen Curry was great as he nailed 3 after 3 to keep the Dubs close. A regular season loss against a lesser team will never standout in Curry’s illustrious resume, but this was actually a sneaky good Curry-clutch game. It all went for naught as the referees had a big hand in deciding this one. In reality, both the calls were close and the league’s 2-minute report the day after actually sided with the referees. But it is always a problem when the referees make some close calls that end up deciding the game instead of letting the guys play.

Multiple Warriors were understandably upset and long story short, they ended up writing hefty checks to pay the fines. They were going after the zebras even during the game after Steph’s last shot in OT. In fact, I wonder if the refs called that final foul against Durant because of all the mocking that went on. Durant was also ejected from the Denver game with 2 quick technicals. The Dubs might be pushing their luck a little too far these days when it comes to the refs. More importantly, though, the incidents in Minnesota might have brought the team together in a weird way.

Microcosm of the Season

One-point OT losses in the regular season don’t mean much for the Warriors overall, but the Minnesota game was another puzzling defeat in a season full of them. That game was a microcosm of the entire Warriors season in many ways. They looked great for stretches to go up by 19. There was a portion just before half-time when the Dubs reminded us why we loved them when they burst on to the scenes in 2014.

They played tough defense, moved the ball till it found the open man, and nailed the 3s. Klay, Durant, and Curry hit consecutive 3’s for 12 straight points and closed the half strong. But then by mid 3rd quarter, they looked disjointed and undisciplined as they gave all of that lead back. Their defense slacked off, shots stopped falling, and they found themselves down by 9 late in the fourth.

The Dubs used to play inspired basketball for 48 minutes in 2015/16. Now, we are lucky if they do it for 15 minutes a game. Against the T-Wolves, they did turn on the switch again and let their superior talent and shot-making abilities take over late in the fourth. They have won quite a few close games this season that way, but they are also 0-5 in OT games. The other team can make shots too and these days, it’s all 3-point shots anyways! Teams can erase 19 point deficits in no time if the opponent falls asleep.

Playoffs are Almost Here

Since that game, they seem to be in playoff form. Their chemistry, energy, ball-movement, and defensive effort seem to be on-point. Their talent level and experience will ensure they stay as the prohibitive favorite through the post-season. However, the gap is narrowing with the other teams, especially in the East. They can’t slack their way to a championship this season. They have to earn it the hard way. The Rockets series last season was the only real challenge they have faced in the last 2 playoffs. The Dubs may be playing many such series this post-season with the rolling Rockets still looking like their biggest challenge.

The Dubs need their focus and edge and they seem to have it now. They have to commit to consistent defensive effort and focus over the next 2+ months to take the title home. The strategy of turning the switch on and off on-demand is going to be dicey against better competition in the playoffs. The Dubs look like they might have turned that switch on once and for all for the rest of this season. They need that for an easy route to a three-peat. Ironically, this critical stretch of this season might have kicked off in Minnesota after that difficult game.

 

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About Aravind Srinivasan

Aravind loves two things- the NBA and writing. He has been a long-time Phoenix Suns fans since the Charles Barkley-Kevin Johnson era of the mid-90’s. He now lives in the Golden State and follows the Warriors closely. An avid sports and NBA blogger since the early days of blogging, he is now a Suns and Dubs writer for TLSM. His favourite Sun is Steve Nash and his favourite Warrior is Steph Curry. Twitter: @15cent

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