The Warriors are 36-2. That’s the best start in NBA history, which says it all. Except now, as injured players filter back onto the active roster, they look as deep and strong as ever, even on nights when Steph Curry and Klay Thompson miss shots they normally make.
The Warriors defeated the Heat 111-103 at Oracle, and it wasn’t the kind of game we’ve grown accustomed to watching. What jumped off the box score at the end of this one — other than the Warriors only making 30.4% of their threes against a team that defends the three-pointer very well — was how the starters were all negative in the plus-minus category and every reserve was positive.
Their 36th win (halfway to 72) was methodical in nature. Golden State outscored Miami in the first, third and fourth quarters, and both teams scored 29 points in the second quarter. The Warriors pushed their lead to eight points in the second quarter, 10 points in the third, and 11 in the fourth. But unlike most games this season, or over the last two seasons, the Warriors couldn’t put the Heat away.
“Every time that this started to look like a normal Warriors game, where we were going to get some separation, (the Heat) brought the game right back,” Luke Walton said. “That’s what veteran teams do.”
Even without LeBron James, Miami is a solid team. Actually, with Dwyane Wade still playing at a high level (he only shot 6-of-20, but he ended up with 20 points and 11 assists) and Chris Bosh playing outstanding basketball, a part of James might wonder if he should’ve stayed in Miami. Without the King, the Heat can’t approach the Warriors’ level of play. And, to their credit, they effectively admitted as much with the perspective that comes from reaching the sport’s highest highs.
“Very good, they’re very good,” said Wade.
“I was talking to Iguodala at the end of the game and I told him enjoy it. Don’t take it for granted. Myself, Chris (Bosh), U.D. (Udonis Haslem), Bird (Chris Andersen), we’ve been there before. When it’s gone, it’s different, then it’s gone. You’ve got to enjoy this. They’re a special ball club. They really play as a unit. They’ve got the perfect team for the style of basketball that they want to play and what the NBA is today. So you understand why they’re so good.”
The Heat aren’t special anymore, although they are 11-4 against the Western Conference. But even on a night when the Warriors didn’t win in blowout fashion, the Heat recognized greatness when they saw it. And it made them a little jealous.
“D was saying, ‘I remember that look.’ Just their poise on the court, they stay calm. They have the ultimate confidence in their game. It’s like, ‘damn, I miss that.'” Bosh said with a laugh.
“Those guys just have to enjoy the ups and the downs and just enjoy the ride, because one day you’ll be trying, fighting to get back in.”
How good are the Warriors? The Heat — still a proud bunch that remembers winning 27 straight games and repeating as champions — left Oakland after an eight-point loss without feeling too dejected.
“They are an elite basketball team. It’s interesting to see it on the other side. Every time you have a chance, if you make a mistake, they really know how to capitalize on a lot of that,” said Erik Spoelstra.
“Our guys are competitive guys, so we don’t feel good about this, but you’re going against a great team.”
— It’s pretty nice when you can beat a playoff team while your top two scorers go 17-for-42 from the floor.
— Harrison Barnes might find himself back in the starting lineup before too long. He played 26 minutes, had 12 points and six rebounds and was a team-high +18. Brandon Rush finished with one point and one rebound in 16 minutes.
— The bench was full of awesomeness. Mo Speights scored six points in his first 2:51, and seemed too quick and bouncy for Haslem to handle. Iguodala’s game was nearly flawless. Even after he fell down on the perimeter and appeared to be in pain on a play where Gerald Green ended up with a dunk, he ended up going really high to convert a lob about 15 seconds later.
— Here’s what should be frightening to every other team in the league, including the Spurs: the Warriors haven’t been all that healthy for quite some time, they’ve been without their head coach, and they’ve only lost twice.
“We’ve had a lot of injuries over the season. If we can just get everybody healthy and back into the rhythm (we’ll be better off). We had our rotations early on in the season, when everyone was healthy. You kind of knew when you were going in and going out,” said Andrew Bogut, who made 4-of-5 shots and finished with eight points and nine rebounds.
“The coaches have had to make adjustments on the fly with different lineups. I guess everyone’s kind of looking forward to getting everyone back.”
— One interesting move the Warriors made was putting Bogut on Justise Winslow and Luol Deng in the second half, which allowed Draymond Green to defend Chris Bosh. Spoelstra said they thought the Warriors would make that adjustment earlier.
— It’s been a while since I’ve covered a Warriors game, and the most impressive thing visually — other than Iguodala’s ridiculous dribbling display at halfcourt in transition and Curry going behind his back twice (if Draymond Green makes the layup, it’s on every Curry highlight package for the rest of time), was Green’s passing. The guy attempts some of the most difficult passes, through traffic, between mazes of arms, and just about every one of his “dangerous” passes connects.
“I’ve always been a pretty solid passer,” Green said. “When you get confident, you take a few more chances and they’ve been working.”
— No triple-double this time for Green (22/12/6). He’s averaging 18.2 ppg, 13 rpg and 8.2 apg in 2016.
— Times have changed quite a bit around here. OK, that’s putting it mildly. The Warriors won 36 games or fewer 14 times in an 18-season stretch (1994-95 to 2011-12).