Warriors' offense rolling in NBA playoffs with Kevin Durant on fire

Warriors' offense rolling in NBA playoffs with Kevin Durant on fire

Editor's note: Grant Liffmann (@grantliffmann) is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders, which airs on NBC Sports Bay Area 90 minutes before each home game and 60 minutes after every game. Each week, Grant will drop his Outsider Observation on the state of the Dubs.

Since the Warriors' historic meltdown in Game 2, there has been a tempered excitement from the Dubs fan base. On one hand, the Warriors are one win away from defeating the Clippers and moving on to the second round. On the other hand, a red-hot Rockets team likely awaits and the Warriors have proven themselves to be consistent underachievers throughout the regular season against top-tier opponents.

The Game 2 collapse was yet another reminder to fans that the Warriors are always susceptible to sudden loss of focus and immediate bouts of apathy. And yet, when looking at the big picture, the Warriors have been playing quite well in the playoffs, particularly on offense.

Here are some key statistics and trends to know:

Through four games in the playoffs, the Warriors lead the NBA in points per game, field goal percentage, three-point field goal percentage, assists, free throw percentage and ... turnovers.

The Warriors have been an offensive machine so far these playoffs, shooting the ball with extreme efficiency and putting up more points per game than any other playoff runs in the Steve Kerr era. But the team has been careless with the basketball in the first two games of the playoffs, averaging an absurd 21.5 turnovers per game.

Many of these live-ball turnovers led the Clippers into transition and put a scrambling Warriors defense on its heels. The focus to curtail the recklessness with the ball has shown great results over the last two games, however, as the Warriors have cut down their turnovers to an average of 12.5 per game.

If the Warriors are to play the Rockets in the next round, it will be imperative they maintain their careful play with the ball, as the pace of the series will slow down considerably and every possession will mean that much more. 

The Warriors are 19-1 in playoff games in which Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, and Klay Thompson combine to score 70 or more points.

In the regular season, Curry averaged 27 points per game, Durant averaged 26, and Klay averaged 22 for a combined total of 75 points per game. When the big three scorers combine to score just below their regular season averages, the Warriors are nearly undefeated. The question mark for the Warriors this postseason is whether or not their defense will show up when the big three struggle to score.

The once reliable smothering Warriors defense has shown cracks in the armor during the regular season and in moments so far this postseason (i.e. the fourth quarter of Game 2). They will be put to the test if they are to advance and play teams that are more likely to capitalize on any weakness. 

Andrew Bogut is averaging more points, rebounds and assists per game than his previous two playoff runs with the Warriors.

There has been plenty written about Andrew Bogut's significant impact on the Warriors so far. But it does not take complex algorithms or analytics to see Bogut's production so far, you can simply look at his generic statistics. As compared to his playoff runs in 2015 and 2016 with the Warriors, Bogut is currently averaging more points per game (5.5), rebounds per game (8.5) and assists per game (3) these playoffs.

Better yet, he is putting up these numbers in only 16 minutes per game. Bogut's presence has been felt outside of the arena, in the locker room, on the bench, and on the court.

It has been only four games so far, but he has become a key productive piece in the playoff rotation. 

Kevin Durant's 71 combined points in Game 3 and 4 are the most he has scored in consecutive games since he combined to score 100 points in late November.

It was just two games ago that all of the national and local media were wondering what was going on with Kevin Durant. He was shooting the ball efficiently in Games 1 and 2, but his turnovers were unusually high, he wasn't getting many shot attempts up, and he had two early exits due to his on-court battles with Pat Beverley.

[RELATED: KD wants message to be his, not media's, as free agency looms]

Since then, Durant has been exceptional.

In Games 3 and 4, he combined to score 71 points on 59 percent shooting and incrementally cut his turnovers down to 5 and then 3. The Warriors had not seen this type of Durant performances in consecutive games since late November when Steph Curry was injured and KD had to take a majority of the shots.

It is unfair to expect this type of dominance from Durant on an every game basis, but it was a nice reminder to the Warriors and the NBA that when Durant is fully locked in, there may not be a more lethal player on the planet. 

Warriors' Steph Curry ranked best shooter of decade; Klay Thompson No. 4

Warriors' Steph Curry ranked best shooter of decade; Klay Thompson No. 4

Steph Curry is arguably the greatest shooter in the history of basketball. I only say "arguably" because -- well, you know -- contrarians.

What is not arguable, however, is that Curry is the greatest shooter of this decade. But just in case you don't believe what your eyes have seen over the last nine-plus years, ESPN's Kirk Goldsberry most recent article should set you straight.

In an assessment of the best shooters of the 2010s, Goldsberry's data revealed Curry to be far superior to everyone else.

"In a decade that we'll remember for its 3-point awakening, Curry was the alarm clock," Goldsberry begins.

In quantifying Curry's superiority as a shooter, Goldsberry compared his total 3-point production to his closest competitor in that statistic, Houston's James Harden.

"By sinking 2,025 3s in the 2010s, James Harden ranked second in the NBA in made triples," Goldsberry revealed. "Steph was No. 1 by a country mile, hitting 458 more 3s than Harden." 

But it wasn't just the quantity of 3-pointers that established Curry's comparative shooting superiority; it was the quality, as well.

"Curry's 3s were tough," Goldsberry continued. "No one has attempted more triples since 2013-14 -- the first year we have full player-tracking data via Second Spectrum -- and only four players took more difficult attempts when accounting for shot quality and defender distance. 

"The gap between Curry's expected eFG (49.6%) and actual eFG (64.0%) on 3s is greater than any other player's."

In other words, Curry did a better job of making 3-point shots he wasn't supposed to make than any other player in the league. Additionally, Curry's shooting performances are more self-produced than any of his competitors.

"To this day, more than 80% of NBA 3s are assisted, but for Curry that number is just 62%."

As the point guard, Curry is responsible for facilitating the offense, not just driving it. Golden State's offenses have ranked among the league's best ever since his ascendancy to the league's undisputed top shooter, but he's not the only one showing off supreme marksmanship. His longtime backcourt-mate also ranks among the top-five shooters of this decade.

That's right, Klay Thompson came in as the No. 4 ranked shooter of the 2010s, someone Goldsberry considers as having "a case as the most terrifying heat-check shooter we've ever seen."

Outside of Curry and Harden, nobody converted more 3-pointers this decade than Thompson. And while, yes, his treys are predominantly more of the catch-and-shoot variety, it's worth noting he's achieved that lofty status despite being the second, or even third option on his own team throughout that span.

[RELATED: Klay rips Trump administration for treatment of Bahamians]

In case you were wondering, Kevin Durant came in at No. 2.

Steph Curry hopes to change face of golf after revolutionizing basketball


Steph Curry hopes to change face of golf after revolutionizing basketball

SAN FRANCISCO – On a damp Monday morning, on a golf course a few inches east of the Pacific Ocean, Stephen Curry explains his desire to go where no man or woman has gone before.

To succeed where Tiger Woods, hindered by personal priorities, did not.

Curry is committed to making golf, despite its reputation as a refuge for the elite, accessible to all. To put a finer point on it, a basketball player wants to change the face of golf.

It’s a novel concept, that of an athlete – one of the greats in this instance – lifting his platform beyond the sport he identifies with and trying to make a tangible difference elsewhere. But Curry is not of a mind of waver. Even as he remains dedicated to remaining crucial to the fortunes of the Warriors, he is trying to speak his quest into existence while also financing it into reality.

“The game plan is forming as we go,” Curry said Monday. “But I just get so excited about the game that I hope other people will, too.”

Curry and scores of others were at TPC Harding Park for the inaugural Stephen Curry Charity Classic, presented by Workday. The goal of the event is to raise $1 million mostly for two causes: 1) PGA Reach, a charity with the stated purpose of increasing golf access to youth and military while also fostering diversity; and 2) Eat. Learn. Play., the foundation initiated by Curry and his wife, Ayesha.

The event carried enough weight to attract San Francisco Mayor London Breed, PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice – as well as former Warriors forward Andre Iguodala and the team’s CEO, Joe Lacob.

Curry’s love for golf is on display every chance he gets. That’s not enough. Upon signing a five-year contract worth $201 million two summers ago, Curry vowed to invest in specific charities and causes. He has made golf one such beneficiary.

When it announced last month that Howard University, a historically black college in Washington, D.C., was resuming its golf program, which was disbanded in the 1970s, it simultaneously was announced that Curry was the man behind the game’s return. He’s making a seven-figure donation over the next six years.

“Basketball has been the best experience of my life in terms of (making) a career out of it, with all the things we’ve been able to do on the court,” Curry said. “But understanding how things I enjoy doing in life outside of basketball, growing the game of golf, there are a lot of different ways of going about that.

“But in terms of somebody outside the normal golf voice lending time and resources and opportunities to share how much the game means to me, the people you get to play with, the places it can take you, the things it teaches you about yourself. Reaching out to underrepresented communities and people that are just looking for access to the game, get them introduced to it early and, hopefully, through their competitive experience, if that’s what they want to do, provide opportunities for that.”

One of the constant themes in conversation with Curry is “growing the game.” And he’s not talking about basketball, which is immensely popular and is represented in some form, on every continent, by practically every racial and ethnic group. Golf, however, still is beyond the reach of many, partly for financial reasons and partly because it simply intimidates those unfamiliar with an environment that can feel quite exclusive.

“We’ve got four pillars: kids, veterans, inclusion and a place to play,” Waugh said. “We want to make a difference in all of that. Golf can be such an engine for good, and we are at the center of golf at every level, from the Ryder Cup to the PGA Championship. We have the opportunity to touch the most people. We want to shepherd that into those pillars, which are needed to evolve the game and make it more relevant to the next generation. We need to make it a game for our kid’s kids, as opposed to protecting a game that our parents or grandparents played.

“Our ability to do that, through making the game more welcoming and accessible and understandable – along with more fun – is what this is about. It can rehabilitate kids because this is a game that can be played for life.”

There was a time early in the millennium, when Tiger, with his brown face and dynamic game, was visualized as not only an ambassador but also the forerunner to many more that looked like him, even if they couldn’t play like him. He opened the door, so to speak, but made only occasional attempts to invite others behind him. The faces of golf haven’t changed much.

[RELATED: Check out Steph's new UA 'Range Unlimited' golf collection]

Nearly 20 years later, Curry is trying to fill that void. He’s going grassroots to expose the game to those who barely know it, if at all. He has made a difference on the basketball court, and now one of his missions is to do so on the golf course.

“There are different measures that you can think about, like getting more kids involved in the game early,” he says. “Or leveraging the traditional golf verticals that hopefully will get more kids competitive in the game. More representation at the early ages.

“From there ... this is a game for life. So, hopefully, my involvement in it will be for life.”