The Golden State Warriors had a mini-slump, looking almost like a regular NBA team for a stretch (oh, the horror!). After their season-opening win streak ended in Milwaukee, they were winning -- just not resoundingly. Then there was the Draymond Green-less loss in Denver and the blowout loss in Detroit. These things happen in the NBA’s January “dog days,” as Warriors coach Steve Kerr calls the lead-up to the All-Star break. Still, with the Spurs keeping pace, it’s encouraging that the Warriors have returned to their dominant early-season form. And here's why they have:
1. The return of Stephen Curry
Did he ever leave, really? Or did he briefly just stop producing at superhuman levels? Starting after a calf bruise on Dec. 23, there was a two-week stretch when Curry suffered five leg issues within two weeks. On Jan. 5, after re-aggravating a shin bruise against the Lakers, Curry indicated it would take “like four weeks” to properly heal. He also added, “I'm not going to sit out four weeks.” This all seemed rather ominous, especially when combined with a subsequent dip in production.
After some experimentation, Golden State’s training staff settled on the preferred gear for protecting that left shin area. It appears Curry has played the past seven games with the same padding. Perhaps not so coincidentally, his numbers have soared: 33.0 points, 7.0 assists, 51 percent shooting and six made 3s per game, all in 34.7 minutes.
While Golden State lost two of these games, Curry's return to form has been crucial. The mini-slump would have looked a lot worse if mixed with a Curry slump. Also, in Golden State’s latest blowouts of Cleveland and Chicago, the Warriors outscored their opponents by an astounding 67 points during Curry’s 61 minutes.
2. Andrew Bogut stepping up
For a while it seemed as though Festus Ezeli might seize the starting center job with his youthful energy and offensive rebounds. Bogut has held the spot, though, playing a huge role for a defense that's surged to being second-ranked. He also continues to help the offense as an incisive passer and jarring screener.
When asked about his recent run of play, Bogut said, "Just grinding it out." Later he smiled and said, "Just getting lucky, I guess."
3. As goes Andre Iguodala ...
When Iguodala is producing offensively, it simply isn't fair. Not only does his production boost the bench, but it's often a positive indicator about Golden State's ball movement. Iguodala needs a bit of time to get his rocking chair-motion shot off. If he's unleashing it accurately, it probably means the Warriors are swinging the ball and finding him in rhythm.
After three games when Iguodala made a combined two field goals, he was heavily involved in the latest two blowout wins, scoring a combined 30 points on 15 shots. As goes Iguodala, so goes Golden State.
4. Speaking of ball movement ...
The Warriors have moved the ball far better than they did in Detroit. In the past two games, they made 623 passes and garnered 71 assists. Golden State strives to get over 30 assists in each game they play. That's usually tough to reach, but they did it in each of the past two games.
5. Unsung Shaun Livingston
With Harrison Barnes still working his way back into form, Livingston's been especially good, giving the Warriors needed flexibility. He was especially productive in the past two wins at moving off the ball and finding openings in transition.
Livingston's game can be hard to appreciate because it's hard to classify. Though a point guard, he doesn't shoot 3s, preferring to post up like a big man. Instead of moving off the ball to get open shots, he cuts behind defenses like Dwyane Wade, something he learned in Milwaukee under Scott Skiles. Whatever his methods, he's been helpful to a Warriors team that thrives on versatility.