Warriors

What we learned as Warriors finally win fourth straight

Warriors
Steph Curry driving on Jarrett Allen

After failing to win more than three consecutive games all season, the Warriors have finally captured the elusive four-game winning streak. 

Their 119-101 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse on Thursday night handed the Warriors their longest winning streak of the season and a real feeling that they are at the beginning of the run they've promised. 

One might bring up that Thursday's win, and two others in their four-game win streak, are over bottom-tier or middle-of-the-pack teams. But that doesn't matter. The Warriors (28-28) are a middle-of-the-pack team themselves and have struggled to find any kind of consistency. 

Seeing them beat these teams -- who they might have lost to just a few weeks ago -- is an enormous sign of growth, and how they are winning is another positive sign. 

Steph Curry recorded his ninth straight 30-point game, scoring 33 points. Draymond Green had five points, 10 rebounds, eight assists, three steals and two blocks, with Andrew Wiggins chipping in 23 points, and Juan Toscano-Anderson, Jordan Poole and Damion Lee adding 20, 14 and 11 points, respectively, off the bench.

Here are three takeaways from the Warriors' fourth consecutive win:

Toscano-Anderson leads a thriving second unit

Coming off a night that saw the bench do most of the heavy lifting in Oklahoma City, the Warriors' second unit picked up right where they left off against the Cavs. 

The first half was chock-full of energy from the Warriors' reserves, heading into halftime with a 25-6 lead in bench points. Nine points came from Lee, while eight were courtesy of Poole and eight more, plus six hustle rebounds, from Toscano-Anderson.

 

They handed the starters a 13-point lead midway through the fourth quarter and ended the game out-scoring Cleveland's bench 45-23. 

Toscano-Anderson finished the night with a career-best 20 points on 8-of-9 shooting, all while playing scrappy defense. 

On the second night of a back-to-back, this is exactly what the Warriors need. And it's a greater sign that the Warriors are developing. 

Bench production has long been an Achilles' heel for Golden State, and seeing now that the second unit can not only maintain leads the starters build, but also build on it suggests the Warriors are making steps forward and are better equipped for a run.

Getting it done without the 3-pointer

After hitting a franchise-tying 24 3-pointers the night before, the Warriors' focus was in the paint Thursday night. 

Golden State went 17-of-46 from the 3-point line, with Steph Curry hitting just four, none of which came in the first half.

Instead, their game plan was centered around attacking the basket and finishing at the rim. Playing with predominantly small-ball lineups, the Warriors stressed the importance of knocking down shots from distance. 

As Kevon Looney said, if they don't have the size to compete with opponents' bigs, force them to play their quick-paced, well-spaced game.

The encouraging sign from their game in Cleveland is that the Warriors still figured out how to be competitive until they got their shots to fall. And they came at the perfect time. After the Cavs got within four in the third quarter, the Warriors rediscovered their offensive rhythm, and Curry hit his first two 3-pointers to get Golden State back up 10 heading into the final frame.

Defensive improvements

The Warriors like to say they are a defensive-minded team. But that identity has slipped over the last few weeks. 

Against the Cavs, particularly in the first half, defense is what allowed the Warriors to build and maintain their lead as they found their offense and shooting.

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Golden State came out with incredible energy, and players such as Toscano-Anderson, Green, Looney and even Poole scrambled around on defense. 

They made multiple defensive efforts on nearly every possession, making sure to never give Cleveland easy looks. 

Throughout the game, the defensive energy that got them off to such a quick start began to slip, though they traded it for more shooting. Now, the Warriors need to find the balance between the two.

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