Tuesday's loss to Oklahoma City was the Warriors' 22nd game this season, wrapping up a third of this shortened 66-game schedule. At 8-14, the start has been less-than promising for coach Mark Jackson's first season, but how does it compare to Keith Smart a year ago?
In a normal schedule, a third is slightly more than 27 games. In 2010-11, the Warriors were 9-18 in their first 27. That's a .333 win percentage, so slightly less than Mark Jackson's .364.
Record aside, many of the team stats are remarkably similar. This year's team is shooting slightly better from the field (46.1 vs 45.3), but slightly worse from three-point range (38.2 vs. 38.8). The Warriors have averaged one more assist and one fewer turnover this season, but are also averaging just under two fewer total rebounds. One of the largest discrepancies has been offensive rebounding; this year's squad is averaging 3.2 fewer offensive boards (10.3 this season, 13.5 last).
Yet despite the many similarities, this is a different team defensively. Even with Oklahoma City's 119-point outburst on Tuesday, the Warriors are still allowing just under 6 fewer points per game (100.9 this season, 106.8 last season). The Thunder's 119 points upped that number by over a full point.
The Warriors are also scoring slightly less (98.5 this season, 100.9 last), but that number jumped 2.3 points after their last three games, when they've averaged 113.7 points per game. Part of that has to do with a slowing down of the game -- the Warriors are averaging just over two fewer possessions per game this season.
So despite the difference in total, they are actually really similar in terms of offensive efficiency (103.0 points100 possession this season, 103.2 points100 possession last). Defensively though, their efficiency has improved by 5 points per hundred possessions.
So how has Golden State been more efficient? The Warriors haven't forced more turnovers (TOs down .7 this season) and they haven't done better on the glass (opponents averaging .2 more rebounds).
The improvement has come from better rotations and some luck. The luck is free throw shooting. Last season, opponents shot 79.0 from the line and this season that number has dropped to 73.8. Since opponents average 28.5 free-throw attempts a game, that's a difference of a point a game without the Warriors having to do a thing.
But opponents are shooting worse from the field (45.2 this season, 47.3 last) and from the three-point line (37.0 vs 38.0). Opponents are also averaging 2.7 fewer assists per game. That adds up to better rotations on ball defense (which limits open shots created by a pass) and tougher looks at the basket. Those improvements demonstrate two things: Jackson's defensive emphasis and better effort from the players.
Unfortunately for Jackson, the improvement on defense has not made a huge difference in the win column. Right now the Warriors are on pace for a 24-42 season if they maintain their .364 win percentage. If Jackson's goal is to do better than a year ago, that's not going to cut it.
Last year's team took off after the first third of the schedule. After their 9-18 start, Keith Smart's Warriors went 27-28 in their final 55 games to finish with a .439 win percentage. The improvement was in large part thanks to David Lee and Stephen Curry getting healthy and an improved offense (106.6 points100 possession in the final 55 games). This year's team will benefit from a healthy Curry the rest of the way. With an improved defense, maybe it's time for Jackson to turn his attention to kick-starting that offense.
Mike Kreuser is a production assistant with Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.