The NBA season once again opened with the seemingly unbeatable Golden State Warriors dropping their opener to one of their biggest rivals. However, the tenor of those losses was slightly different. After the Spurs dealt them a 29 point blowout loss to open the 2016-17 season, Golden State lost by a couple of tenths of a second to the Houston Rockets after Kevin Durant's apparent buzzer beater was waved off.
The Warriors scraped past the Pelicans in their second game before losing to the Memphis Grizzlies in their third game of the year. Since then, the Warriors have rolled past the rest of the league. Their defense, a sore point to start the year, has climbed back into the top third of the league. Their offense, always an incredible force for other teams to counter, has been more efficient this season than their destructive attack from last season. At this point, the Warriors are playing more to beat out their own records than they are against the rest of the league. With questions abounding in Cleveland, the Warriors look poised to again end the year on top.
Offense: Taking on all comers
With their offensive firepower, the Golden State Warriors could sleepwalk through most of their games and still put up an unconscionable number of points. After putting up 101 points against the Memphis Grizzlies, however, the Warriors apparently decided that they were not pushing hard enough on that end of the floor. They scored 133 points in their next outing against the Dallas Mavericks, and have not yet looked back.
The Warriors had an Offensive Rating of 116.2 through their first 12 games. That has climbed up to 117.2 after that loss to Memphis, a full four points per 100 possessions better than their league-leading mark from last year. That number is dragged down by their miserable offensive outing against the Miami Heat, where they scored 97 points on just 36.8 percent shooting from the field. Fortunately, the Warriors were still able to win that game comfortably behind their recently stabilized defense.
Defense: Back on track
On October 29th, the Warriors were 4-3 after a brutal loss to the Detroit Pistons. Before their next game against the Clippers, Steve Kerr spoke to the team about their effort. He "told the guys tomorrow’s Halloween, which means today’s opening night. Training camp’s over.” The Warriors seem to have taken that message to heart, as they immediately ran off five dominant victories. Their defense has dramatically improved since Kerr made his case.
Through the first seven games, the Warriors were 26th in the league in Defensive Rating, allowing 108.4 points per 100 possessions. The team struggled to keep up with opponents' energy levels on the defensive end, as they simply were not putting in enough effort on that end of the floor. Newcomer Nick Young certainly did not help matters with his atrocious defense, but the whole team was to blame for not caring enough about stopping their opponents.
During the five-game winning streak since Kerr's pep talk, the Warriors have rolled over opponents like a tank over a mouse. Their Defensive Rating is those five games is 93.1--better than the league-leading Celtics defense. Their ridiculous Net Rating of 24 points per 100 possessions is nearly double their league-leading and historic Net Rating of 12.3 from last season.
As Steve Kerr has pointed out multiple times so far this season, the Warriors' only real opponent during this regular season is the specter of their past successes. Their recent run of remarkable play shows that even that looming specter is not enough to stop what might be the most dominant team in NBA history.