Warriors Analysis

Warriors finding solutions to fourth-quarter demons at right time

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The Warriors are getting hot at the right time and have their eyes firmly set at making a serious run up the standings following their eighth consecutive road win Friday night in Toronto.

There’s still plenty of time for that to happen, too.

The win over the Raptors moved the Dubs a slight percentage point ahead of the Lakers for the No. 9 spot in the Western Conference with 23 games remaining.

But that also brings up somewhat of a sore point.

Just think what shape Golden State would be in had the team not allowed so many late leads slip away. 

More than half of their 27 losses during the 2023-24 season came after the Dubs led in the fourth quarter, according to Elias Sports Bureau. On four of those occasions, Golden State led by double-digits in the final quarter and lost.

If they win even five of the 14 games in which they’ve blown fourth-quarter leads, the Warriors would be sitting in fifth place in the West and in good shape. 

As it is right now, they’re going to need a very strong finish over the next six weeks just to avoid the play-in bracket.

At least now, however, the Warriors are showing signs that they’re capable of holding on when things get tight. They certainly didn’t waver from that in Toronto.

The Raptors trailed by 13 entering the fourth quarter and trimmed the gap to 106-96 with 4:50 minutes remaining before Golden State pulled it together and held on for the victory.

That was big, especially when considering that the Warriors were playing short-handed without Andrew Wiggins or Brandin Podziemski. 

Golden State was also working on short rest after their flight from New York was delayed by about six hours. The players got very little sleep and it showed early on, but the Warriors still managed to hang on in the end.

“Last night was brutal,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr told reporters in Toronto. “That’s the worst travel circumstances I’ve ever been involved with in the NBA. It was pretty rough but I’m proud of the group for the way they competed. After that slow start, which was understandable, we really locked in and did a good job.”

One of the most brutal collapses the Warriors have endured this season came Jan. 4 against the Denver Nuggets at Chase Center when the defending champs shook off an 18-point deficit in the fourth quarter and won on Nikola Jokic’s game-winning 39-foot bank shot at the buzzer.

The loss stunned the Warriors and their fans and came during a stretch when the team went just 4-10 and seemed destined to miss out on the postseason.

A month later, that pattern seemed to continue when the Dubs let a late lead slip away against Atlanta before the Hawks won it in overtime.

Golden State has managed to turn things around, however, and is right in the mix now.

Part of the problem that the team endured earlier this season was likely due to the makeup of the roster. The concept of winning sounds simple enough, but there is a process that comes when learning how to do so on a consistent basis, and only a handful of players on the team had a good grasp on it.

Clearly, the team’s foundational trio of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green have mastered how to do that. But the current Warriors’ roster also consists of several young players who are getting a lot of critical playing time but don’t necessarily have the experience of dealing with tough times in the NBA that the other three have.

They’re starting to get it now, and the results are showing that.

“If you’re going to win you have to be resilient,” Green said. “If your leaders are resilient you have no choice. When you have that, everybody else kind of falls in line.”

It’s almost a certainty that these tough, tight, close games will continue for Golden State. The Warriors are 18-19 in an NBA-leading 37 clutch games this season.

They’re now showing that they can handle these moments and come away with a win. That, as much as anything else, is a promising outlook as the Warriors start looking forward to the postseason.

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