The Golden State Warriors have taken their nostalgia tour to Cleveland for a regular season game given way too much import by those of us who don’t have the fortitude to wait for April. That’s what happens when you win – you become repetitive, and in our attention-spans-are-for-Grandpa culture, there are few things worse.
But one of them is allowing way too many points, and the Warriors – ONLY the Warriors – have found a way to give up points without giving up games. This seems unsustainable, and it certainly isn’t if you watch that vein in Steve Kerr’s forehead, but so far . . . well, you know.
The Warriors have allowed 120 points or more four times in the last 16 days, an unusually high number for a good team and a ridiculous one for a team that trumpets its overarching defensive value.
And it’s true. Golden State is a good defensive team with top-level shot contesters, shot-changers and shot-blockers. They could, if their put their minds to it, hold anyone below 90, and do it routinely.
But they aren’t, and while we could offers theories about injuries, tired legs, age or intermittent disinterest, we think this is just a diabolically clever homage to the 1990 Warriors under Don Nelson, an otherwise mediocre team that tied, if not out-and-out set an NBA record for breeze-bys by allowing five opponents 120-plus scores in seven days.
Now that was a bad team, and an epochally terrible defensive team, in part because Don Nelson believed that points for beats every other metric; hell, he didn’t know from metrics back then, because nobody did.
But in allowing 127 to the expansion Orlando Magic, then hitting the road to allow 144 to Indiana, 134 to Milwaukee, 132 to Chicago and 125 to Detroit, the Warriors established a record for screw-it that can not be bettered, given the fact that the rules didn’t permit more than five games in any seven-game period. The Warriors should have a patch commemorating this anniversary with a swinging gate next to the capital "R" on their scapulas.
And since no defense was mandated by this plucky unit (the 1988 team was even worse), that team was doing what it was told to do. This one is sixth in defensive rating and points allowed per 100 possessions, and yet is showing that defense can go through slumps, or at least can be turned on and off at will, to the consternation of every non-AAU coach who ever drew breath.
We’ll see tonight how much it matters, though. If stomping the Cavaliers matters as an ego exercise, the Warriors will defend fiercely – unless/until they get up by 20, in which case never mind. Because they really can turn it on and off, as maddening as that might seem.