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OAKLAND — Warriors coach Steve Kerr had plenty to say about the special election for one of Alabama’s U.S. Senate seats on Wednesday, and so did the statistical website fivethirtyeight.com. And both sources weighed in on another fascinating, but far less emotional, subject: the Warriors’ ability to block shots.

“I love that we’re going back and forth between blocks and politics,” Kerr said after being peppered with the two sets of questions following his team’s practice. “Anyone want to ask about steals?”

Nope. Vote suppression and shot suppression, those were the topics of the day.

The latter is another shocking development to come out of the gym in downtown Oakland over the past few years. The Warriors have shattered the NBA and built it back in their image, and they did it on the strength of outside shooting. They also have been praised for things like their depth and their free-running offensive flow.

But among their season statistics, the number that most defines the 2017-18 Warriors is this one: 8.68.

That’s how many blocked shots they have averaged on defense over their first 28 games, heading into tonight’s contest against the Mavericks. They not only lead the NBA by a wide margin (San Antonio is second at 6.0), they are rising up and contesting the all-time record of 8.73 blocks per game, set by the 1985-86 Washington Bullets.

Golden State’s defense has been an underrated element of their incredible three-plus-year run. But this particular aspect of the effort is new, or at least improved. And it’s safe to say that no one saw it coming.

I mean, Draymond Green has always been a pretty good shot blocker. And last year’s additions of Kevin Durant, a near-7-footer who has tremendous capacity for the job, and JaVale McGee, an energetic 7-foot leaper, certainly made the Warriors more formidable in the paint. But the bump from 6.77 blocks in 2016-17 to 8.68 in 2017-18 demands an explanation.

“Besides brilliant coaching?” Kerr joked. “It’s just great individual play, and guys working together. So when we’re right defensively, we are funneling guys to certain spots, and we happen to have great length as a team, and speed. So even the guys who aren’t maybe traditional shot blockers are getting some blocks.”

Kerr flashed both sides of the coin in that summary. The first is a roster full of tall, long-armed humans — even by NBA standards. The second is a defensive system that increases the likelihood, if not the inevitability, of blocked shots.

The first factor is easier to see. McGee looks like he could touch the top of the backboard. Durant’s arms stretch like Mr. Fantastic’s, and 6-9 rookie Jordan Bell is a gifted athlete who was already an established shot blocker at Oregon. Green and David West, a couple of big-bodied bruisers, are as smart as NBA players come, and youngster Kevon Looney, who is 6-9, is already pretty savvy.

And things don’t get a whole lot easier for opponents when they get to the backcourt. Sure, Stephen Curry’s singular skill set doesn’t include a lot of rejected shots. But Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Klay Thompson and Patrick McCaw are all 6-6 or 6-7 and defensively capable; they can make life difficult for shooters out at the perimeter.

Chris Herring argued as much in his fivethirtyeight.com piece, citing data from NBA Savant in noting that the Warriors have blocked 41 shots from midrange and beyond the 3-point arc, more than twice as many as any other team. Green alone has swatted 10 of those shots, more than six NBA teams.

WESTERN STATES 100

The race begins at 5 a.m. Saturday. To follow Bob Shebest or any runner, log onto www.wser.com.

West leads the Warriors this season with 3.5 blocks per 36 minutes, followed in rapid succession by McGee (3.4), Bell (3.3), Looney (2.8), Durant (2.2) and Green (1.6). Those are career highs for everyone but McGee, and his mark is above his 10-year average.

What’s missing from the lineup, you may have noticed, is a dominant shot-blocking center. The Warriors used to have one in Andrew Bogut, but he’s long gone. Those 1986 Bullets certainly had one in Manute Bol, whose average of 4.96 blocks that season skewed the numbers for a sub-.500 team. But the Warriors currently do not, especially when you consider that McGee is averaging just 8 minutes a game. Starting center Zaza Pachulia suffers from a childhood accident in his native Republic of Georgia that left him with a 100-pound anvil permanently tied to his waist. He’s not a big shot blocker. But just about everyone else here is. And they benefit from the “funneling” Kerr talked about.

“We’ve got a good overall IQ, basketball smarts, (players) 1 through 15,” West told me. “So guys know, we may not have a traditional 7-foot guy that we’re solely depending on him. But our length, and guys who have those instincts to be around the ball, we just try to make plays when they’re there.”

As assistant coach and defensive specialist Ron Adams said: “It’s not something that we dwell on. We don’t talk about blocking shots. But I think it’s a natural evolution of how we think defensively, and the activity defensively.”

The Warriors are renowned for their defensive switches off of screens, another product of length and wits that makes it hard for opponents to get open looks. Herring pointed out that Golden State is among the NBA’s best at forcing the other team to shoot within the last four seconds of the shot clock. That leads to desperate attempts, which lead to blocks, which lead to fast-break points and a psyched-out opponent.

“It’s not just the blocks,” Kerr said. “It’s making people think about the blocks. When you have that threat, maybe guys shoot their shot a little quicker. And so you take people out of their comfort zone a little bit, that’s the idea.”

The pace has only quickened of late. The Warriors finished their recent, spotless six-game road trip with 12 blocks at Charlotte and 15 at Detroit, then returned to Oracle Arena to thump the Trail Blazers nine times on Monday.

It’s no accident that the flurry has come while Curry, the two-time MVP, is recovering from an ankle injury.

“Obviously, with Steph being out, we want to focus on the defensive end because we don’t have him to save us when we go dull,” West said. “I think there’s just a little bit more intent to make sure we compete every single time that ball’s on offense and we’re playing defense.”

Analyzing election results can be pretty complex. Adams thinks blocking basketballs is simpler.

“Sometimes you have a format, you have fundamentals and you have great athletes,” he said. “And they mix, and that’s what happens.”

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