With their 129-115 victory over the Spurs in Game 4 on Monday, the Warriors earned their fifth-ever and third-straight sweep of a best-of-seven playoff series in franchise history. In doing so, they became the first team ever to start a postseason with 12 consecutive wins, and booked their third-straight trip to the NBA Finals – also a franchise first. They now await their fourth and final postseason opponent, which will be the winner of the ongoing series between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics. But before we move forward, here’s a look back on five takeaways from the series that just completed:
Firing On All Cylinders
Good luck stopping the Warriors’ offense right now. No matter who is defending them, it hasn’t seemed to matter lately, as the Dubs just finished putting up some gaudy offensive numbers in their sweep of the Spurs (who were the top defensive team in the league in the regular season). Golden State scored 498 total points in the Western Conference Finals, tied with the 76ers in the 1978 Eastern Conference Semifinals for the most points scored in a four-game series. They shot 53.8 percent from the field against San Antonio, the highest field-goal percentage in a playoff series of four or more games since the Celtics and Lakers each had a higher percentage in the first round of the 1990 playoffs. Golden State also notched double-digit three-pointers in every contest. It would be tough to record those statistics against any NBA opponent, much less a premiere defensive squad such as the Spurs – granted, without Kawhi Leonard – and that fact that the Warriors were able to do so bodes well for them moving forward, regardless of whom they end up facing in the Finals.
Stephen Curry maintained his hot start to the playoffs all the way through the Conference Finals, and led Golden State in scoring with 31.5 points per game against the Spurs. But perhaps more impressive than the quantity of his scoring was the overall quality. Curry was remarkably efficient in the series, shooting 56.4 percent from the field, including 65.7 percent on two-pointers and 46.7 percent on threes. His 21 three-pointers in the series broke his own NBA record for most threes in a four-game series, surpassing the 20 he converted in the Warriors’ first round sweep of the Pelicans in 2015. He’s well on pace for a 50/40/90 postseason, and his average playoff plus-minus of +17.9 per game is more than two points better than any other player in the league. Curry is playing as well as he has all season right now, and it couldn’t come at a better time as the Warriors prepare to face their toughest test yet in the Finals.
While Curry scored 126 points on 56.4 percent shooting in the Conference Finals, Kevin Durant nearly matched him, scoring 112 points and making 60.3 percent of his attempts from the field in the series. No other pair of teammates has each scored at least 100 points and shot at least 55.0 percent from the field in a series of four-or-fewer games, and while that is certainly noteworthy, Durant’s defense deserves equal acknowledgement. Golden State recorded 22 blocks against the Spurs, and nearly a third of those (7) were done by Durant. He defended an average of 14.0 shots per game (second-most on Golden State in the series), and held the Spurs to 37.5 percent shooting on those attempts, the best defensive field goal percentage of anyone on the Warriors who defended at least eight shots per game. Durant’s length causes all sorts of problems for the opposition on the offensive end, but this season in particular he’s utilized it to thwart the opponent on the defensive end of the floor.
Strength In Numbers
Yes, the Warriors have two of the premiere scorers in the world and one of the three Defensive Player of the Year finalists on their roster, but as the Spurs just witnessed, the Dubs’ success isn’t solely on the shoulders of their star players. Numerous members of the supporting cast played crucial roles in earning the series sweep, both those with considerable playoff experience and those without. Shaun Livingston shot 62.5 percent in the series, fourth-best on the team behind JaVale McGee, David West and Patrick McCaw. West’s average of 2.8 assists per game ranked fourth on the team and first among all reserves, McCaw averaged 10.0 points per game and led Golden State with a true shooting percentage of 81.9 percent, and McGee averaged 25.7 points per 36 minutes and played at the fastest pace of any Warriors player (the Dubs averaged more than two more possessions per 48 minutes with him on the court than any other player). The opposition can do their best to take away Golden State’s primary scoring options, but all that added defensive attention takes the focus off the Warriors’ role players, who took full advantage of those opportunities against the Spurs.
Despite the fact that the Warriors have yet to lose a postseason game, the fact remains that there is still plenty of room for improvement. For instance, Golden State allowed the Spurs to record double-digit offensive rebounds in each of the four games, and the 69.1 percent of available defensive rebounds corralled by the Warriors was their worst defensive rebounding percentage of any round this postseason. Another area of concern is their carelessness with the ball. After averaging 11.5 turnovers per game through the first two rounds, Golden State’s miscues ballooned to 18.3 turnovers per game in the Conference Finals, which the Spurs turned into an average of 25.0 points per contest. Given that San Antonio averaged 108.5 points per game in the series, that’s 23.0 percent of their scoring that came from points off turnovers.