The Golden State Warriors are back baby!
Okay, that's a stretch. But they do have the longest win streak in the Western Conference and are just one win shy of the longest win streak in the entire league.
The Warriors went from attending five-consecutive NBA Finals to having five wins two months into the 2019-20 NBA season. Losing Kevin Durant in free agency, Stephen Curry to a broken hand four games into the season and having Klay Thompson out for the year will do that to you, though.
Remaining stars Draymond Green and D'Angelo Russell have also been in and out of the lineup with injuries, leaving a roster of unfamiliar players to handle the bulk of the work.
With Green and Russell healthy as of late, Golden State has rattled off four-straight wins on their home floor, defeating the New Orleans Pelicans, Minnesota Timberwolves, Houston Rockets and Phoenix Suns.
Who is stepping up for the Warriors?
D'Angelo Russell and Draymond Green
This really goes without saying. You have to figure that if this team is winning games and these two are in the lineup, they're playing key roles to their team's success.
Russell has kicked his scoring up a notch, averaging 26.5 points per game over this stretch - an improvement upon the 21.8 points per game he was averaging before the win streak. He's shooting a bit more efficiently from the field, taking a higher volume of 3-pointers and is getting to the free throw line two more times per game compared to before this streak.
Green is doing exactly what you would expect him to be doing. He's bringing energy to both ends of the floor, locking down on defence while running the team's offence. He's posting 12.5 points, 9.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.3 blocks and 1.0 steals per game over the four games - a stat line that doesn't get more Draymond Green-esque than that.
This duo has only played 18 of the team's 33 games together, but they've been fun to watch when they do share the floor.
Lee put on a great show in the Warriors' Christmas Day win over the Rockets, going for a huge double-double of 22 points and 15 rebounds.
22 Points- Golden State Warriors (@warriors) December 26, 2019
15 Rebounds (career high)
3 Steals (season high)@Dami0nLee || #NBAXmas pic.twitter.com/Wf2Sq52DWl
He's stuffing the stat sheet averaging 18.0 points, 9.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.8 steals over this four-game win streak.
The catch? He's one of the Warriors two-way players, meaning he can only spend 45 days with the NBA club but head coach Steve Kerr says he has no intention to break up the rhythm the team is in at the moment.
Draymond gave his teammate Cauley-Stein an unprompted shoutout in his post-game interview on Christmas, stating, "He's protecting the rim for us, he's been great and he was the main guy going into those traps (on James Harden). He's been dominant for us, he's been great."
Cauley-Stein has done his job, averaging 2.5 blocks with a stifiling defensive rating of 88.7 during the four-game win streak - the best on the team.
He also has the Warriors' best net rating over that stretch at plus-26.5. Aren't small sample sizes great?
The Warriors have been a bottom-five team in the NBA in terms of defensive rating pretty much all season long.
Over their four-game win streak, they own a defensive rating of 97.6 - the second-best rating in the league over that stretch trailing only the Milwaukee Bucks, who have the best defensive rating in the NBA this season.
As mentioned above, Cauley-Stein has stepped up his game on that end of the floor and having an elite defender in Green on the floor will always help you in that instance.
That 97.6 defensive rating is 13.5 points per 100 possessions less than their season average.
How much longer will this run continue? Well, they'll be put to the test against Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday. Whether or not they keep this streak going, it's been joyful to wtch a team that has struggled all season find some short-term success.
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