The View from Section 118: High Velocity Cruise Control
April 4, 2017: Warriors 121, Timberwolves 107
When we say a team is playing on cruise control, it’s assumed that they’ve taken their collective foot off the pedal — and that’s true. For the Warriors, at this moment of time, their foot is definitely off the pedal. However, the car is speeding ahead at 110mph, and nobody can keep up.
The Dubs are dialed in, even without Kevin Durant. A big part of that is that Matt Barnes is doing a credible impression of Harrison Barnes, even with the coincidental same surname. I’m in no way saying a 37-year-old Matt is as good as the current in-his-prime Harrison, but he knows his role. And guess what? That’s the same role that Harrison played last season. It begins with being overly deferential and ends with doing all the little things that matter so much within this entire tapestry. Matt is hitting his open threes, setting solid picks and guarding up when he needs to. He’s Harrisonesque. And because of that, the Warriors have melded back into the finely tuned machine they were last year and the season before.
What’s interesting is that, when KD comes back, they can sub Matt Barnes in for him, and the Dubs can switch back into this mode that’s worked so well for them in those previous seasons. And that’s all their opponents need right now: The Warriors with yet another answer to account for.
Here’s the state of the Warriors and their twelve straight wins: Steph’s locked in. Klay’s locked in. Andre’s locked in. Shaun’s been locked in all season. Draymond looks tired, but he’ll get plenty of rest heading to the playoffs. Zaza’s comfortable. McGee, Clark and West know their roles and are executing it to precision. This is beginning to look like a steamroller that just turned on the ignition and is lining up their targets.
Take tonight, for instance. The Wolves came to play hard. And yet, it was only close in the first half because the Warriors didn’t hit their open shots — and there were plenty to choose from. They got what they wanted. And, on top of that, they hadn’t ratcheted up the defensive intensity yet.
That’s what the third quarter was for. Cruise control ramps up to 135mph. That’s become the modus operandi recently, and it’s completely dismantling. The lane turned into a maze of hands and bodies. The switches were on point. The caroms were gathered without fail. The Wolves’ offense started to work against them. Defensively, the Warriors gave the Wolves only what they wanted to give them. That’s domination, especially when the Dubs got out in transition.
By the way, I don’t remember seeing the Warriors double team this season with as much veracity as they did on Towns tonight. They were lethal with it. Towns would try to power through it, but they had him corralled and contained. It was truly disruptive to anything the Wolves wanted to run. Thinking ahead, I’m not sure who they would use it on. Nurkic? Probably not, if he’s even healthy. Gobert? Nope. DeAndre? Not worth it. LaMarcus? He’s in the high post. Gasol? Not really. It’s interesting. Thinking deeper, a double team like this could be a tactic they use if a team posts up Steph. I just found it interesting. It seemed new. Maybe not.
Klay had 41 tonight. It was a quiet 41, if that’s even possible, muted by the sight of Steph dunking, which is an even rarer feat. Draymond wasn’t his usual whirling dervish self, but like I said before, he’s tired. He needs a break, and he’s getting it. And McGee brings such an explosive element into the game that he needs to be checked at all times — and that’s a problem when the Dubs run Steph or Klay off some curl cuts to the block and to the corner. Both defenders need complete clarity with their assignments, because, right now, the Warriors high-low game is destructive with the slightest amounts of daylight. Draymond is looking for McGee as soon as the stay-home defender feints towards the corner. I know you don’t want to give up the Klay or Steph three in the corner, but the Draymond-McGee connection is making teams pay for their commitment.
How the hell do you stop this team?
And KD is coming back this weekend.
- Seriously, I think I glazed over this above, so I wanted to call this out right here: The Dubs’ high-low post game with Draymond feeding Zaza, McGee or West is unstoppable right now. So much good comes off of having that extra option for Draymond with him at the top of the key. He can see the whole court, and you damn well know he’s gonna make the right read at the right time. Good luck designing something to defend that.
- Karl-Anthony Towns is an old-school monster. What a devastating game he has. So smooth, coordinated and savvy. He’s got it all, and everyone on the court knows it. And he’s just 21 years old. Oh man. It’s gonna be fun to see what he evolves into.
- I’ve never seen Ricky Rubio look for his shot as much as he did tonight. Checking back at his game log, it seems like he adjusted his mindset on March 4 to shoot more. Tonight, he didn’t look smooth doing it, but something seems to be working.
- They’re not far from being a playoff team, and improving the bench will go miles. Adrien Payne looks like he’s always about to fall down. Kris Dunn was invisible; I didn’t know he was on the court until I looked at the box score. They have Jordan Hill AND Cole Aldrich. Tyus Jones didn’t look like he belonged on the court. There’s not much here to work with. However…
- Shabazz Muhammad has this funky bruising old man’s game that I really like. He works well as an option with the starters and the main guy with the reserves. That being said, he might be wasted on a team that’s developing. A bunch of playoff teams could really use him. He’d be great in San Antonio, for instance.
- Watching Andrew Wiggins play live doesn’t give you the confidence that he’ll develop a true feel for the game. He’s getting by right now on pure athleticism. That’s working for him, but I don’t think it’s working for the team. He doesn’t seem to be in sync with Towns, and they desperately need that.
- I was too far away from Tom Thibodeau to hear him yell. That’s an experience I wish I had.
So that’s it. Unless I pony up for some playoff tickets (think Western Conference Finals), that’s my last game from Section 118, at least for this season. They’re wonderful seats to watch an all-time great team. I highly recommend seeing a game from the pizza slice section, if you can get the chance. You can really see everything that makes basketball such a gorgeously poetic game to watch when being conducted by true artists.
It’s been a pleasure.