The Golden State Warriors' sixth loss of the season came as an utter shock.
Western Conference bottom-dwellers Los Angeles Lakers, whose sole purpose seems to simply escort Kobe Bryant in his march into retirement, defeated this season's history-chasing Warriors, 112-95, last Monday (Manila time).
As expected, pundits from all over were quick to offer their expert take on this year's most talked about NBA subplot: Can the Dubs break the league record for most wins in the regular season set by the legendary 1995-96 Chicago Bulls (72-10)?
As of this writing, the Warriors have just turned back the Orlando Magic, 119-113, notching their 56th victory against six losses. The win also erased the '95-'96 Bulls record for most consecutive home wins (44) in a season, putting them 17 wins away from toppling what was once thought of as an unbreakable record, with only 20 games left in the season.
Can the Dubs pull it off?
The answer might just lie in dissecting their performances against the Milwaukee Bucks, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, and Portland Trail Blazers—the only teams aside from the Lakers that were able to come away smiling after a game against Stephen Curry and co.
FHM identified the trends in the Warriors' sixth losses this season in hopes of finding a way to stop arguably the most dominant basketball team of this era.
We came up with four viable game plans:
Cordon off rainbow country
In three of their six losses, the Warriors converted just seven (vs. the Mavericks) or less (six, vs. the Bucks) three pointers the whole game, typified by their forgettable four makes against the Lakers. Either you clamp down on the Dubs beyond the arc the whole 48 minutes or pray that the Splash Brothers wake up on the wrong side of the bed (like what happened on Sunday; Curry and Klay Thompson were a combined 1 of 18 from three-point land).
The other three games (against the Nuggets, the Pistons, and the Trail Blazers) saw them hit 10, 10, and 12 threes, respectively. Anything below their league-leading 12.7 conversions per game won't really do it for this team that lives and (sometimes) dies by the three.
Out-balance the squad
As much as an offensive juggernaut the reigning MVP is, he (usually) needs the rest of the team to pull off wins. Be it coming from Thompson, Draymond Green, or an unlikely source like Mo Speights, the Warriors' non-Curry points producer most of the time defines a game's outcome—even as early as the third quarter.
In five of their six losses, the opposing team had more players in double figures, with their points evenly distributed. Possibly the only solution to douse a hot Curry (who still averaged a cool 30.6 in the five losses he played in) are water cannons firing from all cylinders—ironically, a balanced attack is what Golden State 's known for.
It also helps when you have a guy named Damian Lillard in your team.
Make them play catch-up ball
Being down at halftime is usually a bad omen for the reigning NBA champions. In all of their six losses, the Warriors were down at the 24-minute mark, four of which were in double figures (11 vs. the Bucks, 18 vs. the Mavericks, 14 vs. the Pistons, 11 vs. the Lakers).
The Dubs usually come out of the locker room swinging, which is why closing out the game as strong as how you opened it is crucial. Something worth noting for Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder...
Play those passing lanes good
Only once in their six losses did the Warriors breach their league-leading 29-assist per game average, tallying 25 or less dimes for the rest. Numbers like that can be otherworldly to iso-heavy offenses like the Toronto Raptors (18.5) or James Har...we mean the Houston Rockets (21.7), but for a team that prides itself in ball movement, a 23.83 assist average simply isn't going to work.
While you probably aren't going to force a lot of turnovers, reducing Curry and Green's (the team's top two assist men) options is sure to disrupt the Warriors' near-impeccable offensive flow.