The Golden State Warriors looked to be in danger after one quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers. The Warriors allowed 47 points in the opening quarter and were down by more than 20 before halftime. In the aftermath of a brutal loss to the Boston Celtics, the Warriors appeared to be on track for another disappointing loss to an Atlantic Division team.
Then, once again, the Warriors turned the third quarter in their favor as they took over the game. They embarrassed the Sixers with 47 points of their own while holding their opponents to just 15 points. While that game was an exaggerated example of their third-quarter dominance, the Warriors' domination of the third period has become their greatest weapon since they began their dominant run. Some might argue that the Warriors are good enough that they can simply start trying in the third quarter and roll over opponents. However, their particular control of that third period remains an important storyline for a team that has rolled over the rest of the league in terms of advanced stats even as they technically do not sit atop the standings.
Three is Always the Number for the Warriors
Three might be the number for Golden State's long-range attack, but their control of the third quarter is just as important. The ridiculous 47-15 third quarter against the 76ers just served to underline how thoroughly the Warriors have controlled the third quarter this season.
The Warriors have been impressively dominant throughout this season, and that dominance has been even more evident in the third quarter. Golden State's Offensive Rating of 114.9 in their first 16 games is impressive and leads the league; their Net Rating of 13.4 is also far above the second-place 8.8 Net Rating of the Houston Rockets. However, Golden State's third quarter numbers are even more absurd. Their Net Rating in the third quarter through their first 16 games was an unbelievable 30.4 points per 100 possessions better than their opponents. Their 124.7 Offensive Rating is 10 points better than their already league-leading mark, and their Defensive Rating of 94.0 is better than Boston's league-leading 95.9 points allowed per 100 possessions.
Part of the third quarter dominance for the Warriors stems from their dominant three-point shooting. The team's ability to generate good looks from deep allows them to close deficits in a hurry and turn slight leads into blowouts. The ringleader in that regard is Steph Curry, who put up 20 of the team's 47 points against the 76ers in that third quarter and scored all four of his triples in the period. Curry's scoring touch from deep is nearly impossible to stop, and allowing him to get hot spells death for any defense:
This was the play that ignited Golden State's third-quarter run that saw a 22-point deficit turn into a 10-point lead.
Any opponent who aims to knock off the Golden State Warriors in the playoffs will need to be able to limit them from taking control after halftime. Unfortunately for any Warriors' opponents, the team's ability to get hot from behind the arc makes the number three-quarter and shot-a nearly impossible force for opponents to try to stop.