Can the Splash Brothers help shoot the Warriors to the NBA title?

Steve Kerr knows how lucky he is.  Taking over the Golden State Warriors head coach position from Mark Jackson was hardly poisoned chalice stuff, given how incredibly talented they are. So whilst their league-best 19-2 start (including a 14 game winning streak) is highly impressive, it’s not all that shocking.

Having watched them overcome my own Orlando Magic twice this season, I’ve seen a team that is very much in the conversation for a Championship. Though the two displays contrasted greatly, they both showed the Warriors have what it takes to contend for top honours in the NBA..namely, the deadliest backcourt in the league!

In Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, the Warriors possess two of the most potent shooters around, and their ability to score seemingly at will not only strikes paralysing fear into defences, but also ensures that Golden State are never truly out of any game. That kind of psychological advantage can have a huge impact on opposing teams when trying to close out a game, and also fuels a “never say die” attitude for a Warriors team that can shoot itself out of trouble.

When Steve Kerr brought his team to Orlando for the first of their two games against the Magic at the back end of November, Jacque Vaughn and his young team just couldn’t compete with the speed and efficiency of the ruthless Warriors. The game ended in a 15 point Golden State win but, in truth, the game was over shortly after half time. The ridiculous shooting of Curry and Thompson had the league leaders up by 27 after 3 and thus earned the Golden State starters a nice 4th quarter off.

The Warriors shot a scorching 52% from the field during the game and a lights-out 46% from 3. Steph Curry was 9-of-13 from the field and 6-of-8 from 3-point land, whilst dishing out 8 assists with just 1 turnover. All in just under 24 minutes. It’s hard to lament a defeat when a player balls out like that.

Fast forward just over a week and the Magic travelled to The Bay for the return. This time however, the game told a different story. Well, sort of…

The sign of any good team is the ability to be able to react and adapt to the game and the opponent. That’s why playoff basketball is so fascinating. Over a seven game series teams will react, adapt, counter, change and evolve to try to stop the opposition. Whoever does that best will win.

Going into California a week after being blown out on their home floor, the Orlando Magic had seemingly learned their lesson and adapted their defence to thwart the sharp shooting Warriors. Aggressive close outs on drive and kicks, and switching at every pick and roll, had unsettled the usually red-hot Warriors and held them to just 3-of-15 from behind the arc through the first 3 quarters.

Going into the final 4 minutes of the game , the Orlando Magic held an unlikely 9 point lead and the cold shooting Warriors’ 11 game win streak looked to be coming to a surprising end.

However, they say the sign of a good shooter is to just keep shooting. And they did! Following a Steve Kerr time out, Steph Curry nailed a 3 to cut the lead to six.

Two defensive stops and two possessions later, Klay Thompsin had hit back to back 3’s, wiping out the Magic’s 9 point lead in 1 minute 42 seconds to tie the game at 93.

Following a Bogut miss for Golden State, the Magic led by two. But when Elfrid Payton missed a layup with eight seconds left, Steve Kerr had no inclination to call a timeout as Curry raced back down the court.

6’ 9″ combo forward Tobias Harris was desperately trying to keep the best shooter in the league in front of him, but with the ball and the game in his hands, Curry stopped, rose up from deep and hit a game winning 3-pointer to beat the magic by 1.

A game that had seemed all but lost just a couple of minutes earlier had been turned on it’s head thanks to four 3s in six possessions and four minutes. Now obviously, this is not quite Reggie Miller at MSG material. But as a watching Orlando Magic fan who was helpless to resist the sheer brilliance of the Warriors resilience and execution down the stretch, it sure felt like it.

The scary thing is, GSW aren’t one of those fast up tempo teams that just try to outscore you each game. Mike D’antoni had his Phoenix Suns with Nash and Stoudemire playing some outstanding up tempo, free scoring, 3 point focussed basketball. But they couldn’t defend, and that’s why they never won a title.

But Steve Kerr’s Warriors seem to be the total package. Through 21 games they lead the league in opponents’ field goal percentage and are 4th best in opponents’ points per game. Couple that with their frightening backcourt and it’s this fan’s belief that the Warriors have all the tools required to win this years NBA title. Easy to say maybe at 19-2, but with Curry and Thompson on the floor, that 2 shows no signs of increasing any time soon.

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