War­riors start second half of sea­son right by blast­ing Bulls 146-109.

All Sta­tis­tics Through 41 Games

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - FRONT PAGE - By Con­nor Le­tourneau

As the War­riors looked sur­pris­ingly mor­tal over the past three months, many were quick to pre­dict the demise of Golden State’s dy­nasty.

Such dooms­day sce­nar­ios are funny to the War­riors, who have come to view the reg­u­lar sea­son as lit­tle more than an ex­tended pre­lude to the play­offs. Asked after Tuesday night’s rout of the Knicks how he feels that Golden State had only 27 wins at the mid­point of the sea­son, Kevin Du­rant bris­tled, shoot­ing back, “Who cares?” be­fore he ex­plained that the “reg­u­lar sea­son is just to build your habits.”

The War­riors are in an en­vi­able po­si­tion, one game be­hind Den­ver for the West­ern Con­fer­ence’s top seed. Next week, they ex­pect four-time All-Star De­Mar­cus Cousins to re­turn to ac­tion.

Most Valu­able Player

Stephen Curry: Be­cause his gaudy num­bers carry the as­ter­isk that de­fenses also must deal with Kevin Du­rant, Curry will have a tough time gain­ing trac­tion in the NBA MVP con­ver­sa­tion. That doesn’t change the fact, how­ever, that Curry has played at an MVP-cal­iber level. In 34.8 min­utes, he is av­er­ag­ing 28.9 points, 5.5 as­sists, 5.2 re­bounds and 1.3 steals. If Curry can im­prove his shoot­ing per­cent­age (48.3) just a bit, he should make the 50-40-90 club for the second time in his ca­reer. Per­haps the best way to mea­sure Curry’s im­por­tance, though, is to look at how Golden State did when he wasn’t avail­able. The War­riors were 22-8 with him, and 5-6 with­out him. Ac­cord­ing to NBA.com, Golden State outscored op­po­nents by a team-best 11.6 net rat­ing with Curry on the court. That num­ber plum­meted to a mi­nus-2.6 with­out him.

De­fen­sive MVP

Dray­mond Green: It was dif­fi­cult to find a de­serv­ing can­di­date for this award, which speaks to the War­riors’ de­fen­sive struggles. After post­ing a top-six de­fen­sive rat­ing each of Kerr’s first three sea­sons, Golden State slumped to 11th last sea­son. At this sea­son’s mid­point, it’s 16th out of 30 teams. A big rea­son be­hind the War­riors’ de­fen­sive is­sues: Green has missed 14 games. Even when he has played, he hasn’t been the de­fen­sive force fans are used to see­ing. Still, Green led the team in steals (1.7) and de­fen­sive rat­ing (102.4), and he ranked third in blocks (0.96), trail­ing the much taller Du­rant (1.1) and Damian Jones (1.0).

Big­gest dis­ap­point­ment

Pa­trick McCaw: After McCaw had a dis­ap­point­ing 2017-18 sea­son in which he sus­tained a scary spinal in­jury, Golden State ex­pected the re­stricted free-agent guard to sign its one-year, $1.7 mil­lion qual­i­fy­ing of­fer and try to boost his value for free agency next sum­mer. In­stead, McCaw played hard­ball with the back-to-back NBA cham­pi­ons de­spite hav­ing no lever­age. Less than two weeks ago, the War­riors de­clined to match Cleve­land’s non-guar­an­teed two-year, $6 mil­lion of­fer sheet. McCaw has since been waived by the Cava­liers and signed a one-year, vet­eran-min­i­mum con­tract with the Rap­tors. The whole sce­nario left Golden State sad­dened and con­fused.

Best new­comer

Jonas Jere­bko: In July, when the War­riors signed Jere­bko — fresh off get­ting waived by Utah — to a one-year, vet­eran-min­i­mum deal, they did so hop­ing he’d bol­ster their three-point shoot­ing off the bench. What Golden State has got­ten is one of its most com­plete, re­li­able re­serves. In 20 min­utes per game, Jere­bko aver­aged 7.5 points, 5.0 re­bounds and 1.6 as­sists. Though his 36.4-per­cent clip from be­yond the arc was down from last sea­son’s 41.4, he has been an ideal fit for Kerr’s of­fense, playing mul­ti­ple po­si­tions, mov­ing off the ball and mak­ing de­ci­sions on the fly. Jere­bko shot 84.3 per­cent from the foul line and a ca­reer-best 59.6 per­cent on two-point­ers.

Big­gest sur­prise

Al­fonzo McKin­nie: More than just the War­riors’ big­gest shocker, McKin­nie has been per­haps the NBA’s big­gest sur­prise. In 2015, after an in­jury­marred ca­reer at Wis­con­sin-Green Bay, McKin­nie didn’t even en­ter his name into the NBA draft. Fol­low­ing stints in Lux­em­bourg, Mex­ico, the G League and a 53-minute cameo with the Rap­tors, he turned down two-way con­tracts from other teams to join Golden State as a non-guar­an­teed train­ing-camp in­vi­tee. Now, McKin­nie is a ro­ta­tion player who aver­aged 5.2 points and 3.7 re­bounds per game. His de­fen­sive ver­sa­til­ity, knack for crash­ing the glass and abil­ity to knock down an open three-point try make him a pro­duc­tive com­ple­men­tary player. The War­riors showed just how much they value McKin­nie this week by guar­an­tee­ing his con­tract.

Team grade: B-

The War­riors were on pace for 54 wins, which would be 12 shy of the team’s av­er­age over the pre­vi­ous four sea­sons. Though in­juries to key play­ers have con­trib­uted to a sur­pris­ing lack of dom­i­nance, its is­sues run much deeper. Ros­ter flaws, locker-room tur­moil, un­even ef­fort and the dis­ap­point­ing performance of Green and Klay Thomp­son have fac­tored into this un­der­whelm­ing first half of the sea­son.

Car­los Avila Gon­za­lez / The Chron­i­cle 2018

Stephen Curry (cen­ter) is the War­riors’ MVP at mid­sea­son, Dray­mond Green (right) the de­fen­sive MVP and Kevin Du­rant is second on the team in scor­ing at 28.4 points per game.

Rick Bowmer / As­so­ci­ated Press 2018

New­comer Jonas Jere­bko (21) has been an ideal fit for head Steve Kerr’s of­fense, av­er­ag­ing 7.5 points, 5.0 re­bounds and 1.6 as­sists per game in the first half.

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