The NBA season is still very young but one thing that is apparent; the Golden State Warriors are for real.
“Lucky” is a term the Warriors heard all too often this past offseason. “Lucky” they didn’t have to play the Clippers or the Spurs. “Lucky” they played an injury plagued Cavaliers in the Finals. “Lucky” they found a way to win despite Stephen Curry disappearing for a few games. However, there was nothing lucky about it.
The Warriors were a force last year, and may be even better this year. Not only did they win 67 games last year with the league’s highest scoring offense, they played outstanding defense to boot. They have come out this season firing on all cylinders in a way rarely seen before in history. Curry is playing like a man possessed. Even some of the most questionable shots he takes have found their way to the bottom of the net. This team has outpaced the 95-96 Bulls (who started 9-1 and went on to repeat as NBA champions.) Through their first 10 games of the season, Curry led Jordan in PPG, APG, FG%, and 3PM. That’s quite an accomplishment, and it’s not unfair to say he’s just getting warmed up.
Curry has played with more abandon and more confidence this season. That’s a scary thought for the reigning MVP. He’s playing better than the likes of James Harden, LeBron James, and Russell Westbrook. He’s leading the league in scoring, and it’s not even close. He is scoring close to 34 points per game and the next closest player (Harden) is averaging a little under 29. It isn’t a stretch at all to say he’s the best scorer in the league, and arguably one of the greatest shooters to ever play the game.
However, to focus entirely on Curry would be to do a disservice to the entire team. There have been moments where key players have stepped up and kept their early season undefeated streak alive. In their first game against the Clippers, we not only saw the power of the Warriors on full display, but we also saw their will to fight, to claw, and to win despite an early test.
With roughly 2 minutes to play in the first quarter, the Clippers and Warriors were playing it tight, no more than a basket separated the two teams. Suddenly the floodgates opened. The Clippers couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn, and the Warriors were on fire. With 8 minutes remaining in the second quarter, the Warriors had opened up a 17-point lead. 6 minutes of basketball translated to a 17-point lead.
The Clippers found their way back into the game and made it very interesting in the fourth quarter. When Curry went cold and Klay Thompson couldn’t hit, it was Harrison Barnes who stepped up and took over. He did enough to buoy the Warriors until they found their stroke and staved off the fierce comeback.
Against the Raptors, a game the Warriors looked almost certain to squander, it was Andre Iguodala who hit a clutch three-pointer with just seconds left on the clock to lift the Warriors into overtime. In overtime, the Warriors pulled away from the Raptors and found a way to win.
In their second game against the Clippers this season, Los Angeles opened up an enormous lead. They had their boots on the throats of the Warriors, mounting a 23-point lead. Yet again, role players stepped up when it mattered, and Curry proved to be the best scorer in the league. His 40 points proved to be enough, but it wasn’t just Curry hitting shots when it mattered. Paul Pierce had just hit a three to open up a double-digit lead with just five minutes to go in the game. Clutch three after clutch three by Barnes, Iguodala, and Curry saved a game the Warriors should have been blown out in.
These are the types of games that the Warriors have proven capable of winning. When the top options in the offense can’t hit, someone else steps up to keep them going. We saw it in the finals, and we’ve seen it again already early this season.
The Warriors are off to a historic start, one of the greatest in history by a defending champion. After now defeating the Chicago Bulls, the Warriors hold an outstanding record of 14-0. They have surpassed Jordan’s 96-97 Bulls (13-0) to tie them with the 57-58 Celtics (14-0) as having the greatest record by a defending champion to start a season.
It’s not a question as to if the Warriors will get their first loss. No team will ever go undefeated in an NBA season – winning 82 games and losing none is an impossible feat. The question is when will their how many losses will they have? The 96’ Bulls finished at an incredible 72 wins and 10 losses, the best record in NBA history. Is it possible that these Warriors could finish with 73 wins and nine losses?
The Warriors have a chance for another historic season. Barring injuries, it is likely they’ll contend for the best record in NBA history. They look hungry. They look angry. They’re out to prove last season was no fluke, and so far so good. This team is a year older, a year more experienced, and has all the motivation to go out there and prove there was nothing “lucky” about last season’s NBA Title. Their early season dominance has thrown down the gauntlet to every other team in the NBA: Who is going to stop the Golden State Warriors.