If you’re lucky your eyes might catch some confetti still on the ground from the Warriors Championship parade by Lake Merritt in Oakland, Calif. It’s hard to believe that almost six months have passed since the Warriors won their first title in 40 years. Fans still reminisce and smile looking back at an incredible championship run but it seems the Dubs players have stopped looking back since the 2015-2016 season tipped off.
Many consider Golden State’s trip to the ship to have an asterix next to it. The health of opposing teams were continually mentioned. Memphis Grizzlies star point guard Mike Conley nursed an eye injury and the Houston Rockets were without gritty Patrick Beverley. The Cleveland Cavaliers were without All-Star power forward Kevin Love and due to injury, lost All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving in game one of the Finals. It wasn’t the Warriors’ fault their team was healthy and others weren’t; ailments are part of the game and to be expected. Coming into this season questions remained: Would the Warriors be as good as they were last season? Would they regress? Would the league find an answer to the Warriors and MVP Wardell Stephen Curry?
On a November night at home against the Brooklyn Nets, the Warriors found themselves down 15 points after one quarter of play. By halftime Golden State closed the gap to a two-point deficit, 54-52, thanks to aggressive inside play with four close range shots as well as chalking up eight made free throws. The gap widened back to seven after the third and in the fourth two lay-ups from Draymond Green, two threes from Steph and a clutch 3-pointer from Andre Iguodala with five seconds remaining helped knot the game at 97. In the closing seconds Brooklyn inbounded to Brook Lopez right under the hoop. Lopez put up a possible game-winning, point blank shot at the buzzer but it hit the back of the rim and bounced away. Overtime. The Warriors defensively locked down and burst out on a 10-0 run to solidify the win in extra time. That was game eleven of Golden State’s season and one of the closest calls thus far. More recently there was a 23-point comeback against the rival Clippers and the Jazz were a half-court buzzer beater away from ending the winning streak at 18 this past Monday.
Here we are, 19 games into the regular season and still no answer for the Warriors. Still no answer for Steph Curry. The Dubs are an immaculate 19-0, the best start in NBA history and have outscored opposing teams by a total of 291 points. The Rockets, the other team in last years Western Conference Finals, had a +282 point differential throughout the entire 2014-2015 regular season. Let that sink in.
Curry isn’t the only reason for the teams torrid start but one could argue he’s the biggest. Steph’s currently leading the league in points per game (31.6) and 3-pointers made (94) at an alarming 44% rate. He’s on pace for 400+ 3-pointers made, over 100 more than his record-setting season last year. He hasn’t forgotten his point guard duties with 6.0 assists per game but a relatively high 3.5 turnovers per game too. The help around him isn’t bad either. Fellow sharp-shooter Klay Thompson is scoring 16.3 points per game and do-it-all power forward Draymond Green is the 7th best assist man in the league with 7.1 assists per game. Golden State as a team have pulled down the most rebounds in the league and leads the league with 29.4 assists per game. I’d say Curry and the Warriors have given a pretty good answer so far.
Starting small forward Harrison Barnes went down with an injury last weekend and often forgotten small forward Brandon Rush stepped in and had himself a vintage 16-point outing against the Sacramento Kings last Saturday. Up-to-down the bench is loaded with experienced role players and young talent hungry to prove themselves. Even with all the quality on their team there is still room for improvement. Currently Golden State is 14th best in points allowed per game, not unusual considering the Dubs play at a fast pace meaning more scoring opportunities for the other team as well. They’re sixth worst in turnovers per game and 12th worst in free throw attempts allowed. Marginal improvements in these areas would make the already scary defending champs that much more terrifying.
The NBA season is long and grueling. Everyone’s talking about the Dubs but the San Antonio Spurs are holding opponents to a league-best 89.8 points per game and are quietly unbeaten at home. The Thunder are back to full strength with a healthy Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. LeBron James and the Cavaliers are playing at a high level. There are 82 games in a season and Golden State is only 19 games through. The Warriors know that. They’re not concerned with in-season accolades and awards. The focus is repeating and solidifying their place in history alongside elite company. The goal is playing good basketball all season long and sitting by Lake Merritt with the Larry O’Brien championship trophy come June. But it is nice to know that the Warriors are having the best start in NBA history.
At time of print the Warriors game on December 2nd was not played yet and therefore not factored into this article.
Photo courtesy of @warriors on Twitter