Who Can Beat the Warriors in the West?
December 11, 2015 was the day the Golden State Warriors won their 24th consecutive game to open the 2015-2016 regular season. What happened in the next game was totally unexpected as the Milwaukee Bucks handed the 2015 NBA champions Warriors their first defeat of the season. What is the relevance if you may ask? Fast forward to December 11, 2016. The Warriors are still the number one team in the Western Conference, so far. One of the many differences between last season’s team and this season’s is that the 2016-2017 Warriors have already lost four games this season. To begin with, they opened up their first season with Kevin Durant on the roster and a blowout loss to the San Antonio Spurs.
Allow me to reiterate, the Warriors already have four defeats this season, with the last one being a 110-89 loss at the hands of the Memphis Grizzlies. Personally, I expected the Warriors not lose a single game for a long time after successfully luring away Durant from the Oklahoma City Thunder, a team which lost to the Warriors after the Thunder (like the Warriors) blew a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference Finals. Mind you folks, the Warriors even tried to bring Ray Allen out of retirement and that move made me think that this team was really embarrassed after blowing a 3-1 lead in the 2016 NBA Finals.
So here’s the nagging question that is probably nagging you as well, assuming that the Warriors return to the WCF come playoff time. Which team has enough firepower to eliminate Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, and the rest of the Warriors? Now, we know that the Warriors are more beatable this season and that’s the reason for the question of who has enough firepower to defeat GSW in a 7-game series.
In terms of offensive firepower, there are two teams in the west that can possibly outlast the Warriors in the WCF: the Spurs and the Houston Rockets. Now, if you look at the current standing of the west, the Spurs and the Rockets are 2nd and 4th respectively. And in case you haven’t noticed, both the Spurs and the Rockets have scored victories over the Warriors. Which team would fare better against the Warriors in a 7-game series? I’d pick the Rockets over the Spurs due to the fact that the Rockets are experiencing their best start in a season after some miserable seasons in the past.
In terms of at least matching up the scoring outburst of the Warriors, James Harden and the rest of Mike D’ Antoni’s boys have the capability to do that, ranking 2nd in points per game as team, averaging roughly 111 points a night just behind the Warriors’ 118-point average. Harden, for one, is the 6th leading scorer in the entire NBA, averaging 27 points per game. Kevin Durant on the other hand is averaging 26 points per game, tied at the 7th spot with Jimmy Butler.
Now, we all know that Mike D’ Antoni loves it when his team is running the offense in a flash. To achieve that, the team will need a good point guard who can see the floor even if he’s still at the other end of it. And that’s where Harden will come in. He may not be a natural point guard to begin with but he’s heading the NBA with 11 assists per game. Don’t forget about Eric Gordon, a player we all know he can score from beyond the three-point line. He’s second in the NBA in most three-pointers made with 84, just behind Stephen Curry’s 94. In fact, Gordon ranks better than Curry in three-point percentage. Gordon ranks 17th with 43 percent in contrast to Curry who ranks 37th with 39 percent accuracy. Here’s another key stat, the Rockets make more three-pointers per game compared to the Warriors. So in terms of offensive firepower, the Rockets can at least, stick like glue with the Warriors.
The Warriors and the Rockets are scheduled to face each other three more times during the regular season. As for the Warriors, having the best regular season record means nothing if you don’t win the championship (like what happened last season). They certainly don’t want that to happen which is why they signed Kevin Durant, as a result, the acquisition has pushed them to become more beatable this season because they lost several key players who played big roles in the 2014 NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The offense of the Warriors under Steve Kerr has become very limited and very readable which is probably the reason why they have four losses this season already, and 2016 isn’t quite over yet. The Rockets on the other hand need to develop more role players especially those who come off the bench if they intend to make a return to the WCF and dethrone the Warriors. Like it or not, James Harden’s MVP-like numbers can’t carry them there alone. If the rest of the Rockets can perfectly execute Mike D’ Antoni’s run-and-gun offense, they might just have a chance at dethroning the Warriors come WCF. And that’s assuming both teams made it that far.