When you win 67 games, an NBA championship, then follow that up with 60 wins in your first 66 games of the next regular season you’ve had quite a run, that’s for sure. Every once in a while you have to take a look at some numbers and realize how extraordinary they are: The Warriors are 143-26 since the start of the 2014-15 season. Unreal.
When you’re doing something that farfetched, it’s not just a few things that are going right … It’s lots and lots and lots of things going right. One of the latest examples of something going right for the Warriors is Marreese Speights.
Speights has been terrific for the Warriors in recent weeks, interjecting himself into the rotation in a big way – with, of course, some nudging because of the injury to Festus Ezeli. Nevertheless, Speights has been a potent scorer for the Warriors off the bench in Ezeli’s absence, and it’s something they’ve never really had before this stretch. When Ezeli does come back, who knows how the minutes will be divvied up among the big men, but Speights will be considered.
Speights has scored in double figures in nine of his past 16 games, compared with just seven double-figure point games in his first 40. But it’s not just that, it’s how explosive Speights has been while doing that. His past three double-figure scoring games have looked like this: 14 points in 18 minutes; 25 points in 18 minutes; 16 points in 15 minutes. That, my friends, is called scoring in a hurry.
During the early part of this season, Speights wasn’t giving much to the Warriors, and later acknowledged that he had to make some changes with his approach. That was around the start of the New Year, and Speights has been pretty good ever since.
The Warriors’ bench has been very good at times this year and other times just so-so. But whether its been good or just OK, the one thing it has never boasted is a big-scoring sparkplug of a sixth man. The Warriors’ bench has done things mostly collectively.
Speights has clearly benefited from Steve Kerr’s return; he’s averaging 27 points, 11 rebounds and shooting 45 percent from 3-point range per 36 minutes. You could make a case that with Ezeli out, the Warriors never needed Speights more and he’s certainly done well.
Speights’ stepped-up play has also held and flourished since the Warriors acquired Anderson Varejao. It wasn’t difficult to envision Speights’ minutes taking a hit after Varejao arrived, but Speights has not only hung in there, he’s thrived. It would have been easy to see a player like Speights pouting a little bit or feeling sorry for himself after a late-season acquisition at his same position.
But he responded as positively as you possibly could and actually raised the level of his game – just another good thing happening for the Warriors in a year where lots and lots and lots of good things are happening.