First, that was a fantastic game. Regular season games like those don’t happen often, so you have to enjoy them. The Golden State Warriors just defeated the defending champs at home, and the champs expect to go 38-4 at home this year. Minimum. They still do, because now they’re 10-2 at home. 28-2 the rest of the way will probably happen, in part because the Warriors only travel to Miami once per season.
Yes, Miami is a good matchup for Golden State, who beat the Heat at home last season in overtime. The Heat have no center and the Warriors have Festus Ezeli, which means the Warriors have the advantage.
But there are far worse things than matching up well with the best team in the world. And this year, winning in Miami meant a fifth straight road win. It was their most important win, anywhere, in years.
I asked whether Jackson maybe deserves some credit four days ago. It’s not worth asking at this point. Jackson has made a soft team hard. His Warriors rebound and defend. His team sacrifices for each other and everyone seems happy in a set of roles so perfectly defined … it’s almost impossible to believe it’s only the middle of December.
They’re also a cocky set of players, which in the NBA is mandatory. Check out Jackson’s hands-in-the-pockets look after Draymond Green made the game-winner that came as the result of a play where Jackson and his staff made Shane Battier and Eric Spoelstra look bad — which does not happen often.
How much better is that reaction than a coach celebrating this win like the Warriors were a mid-major who just made it to the Final Four? Players love this. He isn’t taking any credit. He drew up the play he knew his players would execute, and they did. No big whoop.
Confidence. For the first time since Baron Davis was a feared NBA star, the Warriors have it. And Jackson is why.
This game was won because the Warriors know they have weapons, and they have alternate plans when good defensive teams try and take them away. Take Stephen Curry away, and you’re going to get a face full of Klay Thompson and David Lee, who was incredibly efficient, talked trash after a dunk (with his off hand) and shoved LeBron James to the ground while he was elevating.
That’s not a bad thing. LeBron milked the shoulder pain to get the flagrant, and the Warriors sent a message. Both sides won, but the Warriors won just a little more.
Klay Thompson had no conscience, and it worked in a huge game. Good sign. The fun thing about watching Thompson is you can see how much better he can become, and he’s already pretty good. He’ll get over-exuberant and throw a sloppy pass or take a shot he shouldn’t, but he hit jumpers in the face of Chris Bosh and hit five 3-pointers in the first half because he knew the Heat weren’t going to let Curry beat them. Then Thompson *inadvertently* hit Dwyane Wade in the face as he curled around a Lee screen, sending Wade out of the game for several minutes with some eye pain.
Again, that’s not a bad thing.
The Warriors weren’t given this game by the Heat, who played hard throughout. Miami didn’t play defense until the second half, but they played hard offensively and gave the Warriors due respect. Why else would LeBron talk trash to Draymond Green? Because Green was annoying the hell out of the best player on the planet, and James doesn’t look forward to facing this incredibly rangy and intelligent rookie anymore this season, or in any other.
Prediction: Green No. 23 jerseys are going to be a staple at Warriors games for a loooooong time.
There was so much to love about what we saw tonight. My favorite part about the first half was the passing. Not just the unselfishness, but the panache and joy. Curry has those scoops and behind-the-back passes, and plays the angles like a Geometry major (if there is such a thing). When Thompson’s passes are on the money, they’re a thing of beauty. Same with David Lee. And Jarrett Jack was Money all night with everything — his passing, shooting, and postgame interview with Jim Barnett:
Jack: Floyd Mayweather put a little bug in my ear told me he put a little bet in on us. Floyd’s no stranger to the casinos, told me he won $100,000 on us.
Barnett: Don’t talk about that.
Jack: I couldn’t believe it. It was crazy.
Jack also said Curry is the Warriors’ best player, in case there was any doubt. If Curry was a Spaniard with floppy hair, he’d be an international sensation right now. Rubio with a jumper.
To think, the last time I saw this team in person they lost to the Magic at home and I took solace in their locker room reaction. Now they look like the team nobody will want to face in the playoffs. I should probably say, “It’s early yet,” but Harrison Barnes is only going to get better. Green is already Tony Allen, only with the personality of a normal, pleasant human being. Lee is playing better than he ever has in his life. Klay’s going to get better. Ezeli blocked a shot from LeBron into the fourth row. The bench boasts guys with savvy, not NBDL hopefuls with 10-day contracts to extend.
This isn’t about “if they get Bogut back” anymore. Five straight road wins, capped by defense (they forced 17 Heat turnovers) and rebounding (Warriors: +2) in an arena no one thought they had any business winning in until maybe 36 hours ago. Now it’s just about seeing if they can maintain the balance they showed tonight between confidence, toughness and intelligence. But there’s no doubt they believe.