The Golden State Warriors won their 60th game and clinched the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference with their 108-95 win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night. They broke the franchise record for wins and nine games still remain. The season has been utterly fantastic by any stretch, but what’s great for the Warriors — who’ve won nine in a row and 14 of their last 15 — is that they’re playing their best basketball right now.
Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala sat out Saturday’s game, their second road contest in two nights. Green, who hadn’t taken a night off since 4/15/13, has come to be known as the team’s most valuable player not named Stephen Curry, and Andre Iguodala has played like an All-Star for the last two months. No problem — the defense didn’t miss a beat and Klay Thompson led the way with one of his most complete performances in at least a month (his +30 made sense to anyone who watched the game in its entirety).
This team is ridiculously, comically deep. David Lee was back in the starting lineup for this game and scored 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting. James Michael McAdoo looked like a guy who could start on a lot of the teams Milwaukee gets to face three or four times each season in the Eastern Conference. Mo Speights plays a bit small defensively relative to his actual size, but he takes charges all the time and is one of the best midrange jump-shooter in the league over 6′ 8″. Shaun Livingston came off the bench and led the team in assists with eight.
They’ve become known for great third quarters lately, but they’ve blown teams away in second quarters this season, too. Just ask the Houston Rockets. They outscored the Bucks 58-30 in the second and third quarters in this game, and of course it was the defense that sparked everything.
Alright, the offense wasn’t bad either. The holy grail of shooting is 50/40/90 (FG%/3P%/FT%). The Warriors were 55.2%/42.1%/90.9% as a team through the first three quarters. They also held the Bucks to 32.3%/11.0%/88.0% over the game’s first 36 minutes. Free throws were all Milwaukee really had while this game was still in the balance, and it appeared that Golden State had a specific focus defensively. Without their two best wing defenders, how were they going to stop Ersan Ilyasova, the hot-and-cold Bucks forward who scored 34 points on 12-of-14 shooting with five threes in the Bucks’ last game? He went 1-for-10 in this game, 0-for-5 on threes, with a 6-for-6 performance from the line saving his night from being a total loss.
— Thompson scored 17 in the third quarter, and his teammates knew to keep feeding him. Case in point: Shaun Livingston drove to the basket from the right wing, and as he got close to the basket, he knew Thompson was somewhere behind the arc on the left side. Andrew Bogut, who was standing about six feet away from Thompson, was pointing over his shoulder to Thompson in an attempt to get Livingston’s attention. I’m not sure it was needed, as Livingston whipped a pass to the team’s hottest shooter as if that was the plan all along. As Thompson released his shot, which went in, Bogut pointed to Livingston and up in the air as he backpedaled back to the defensive end. This kind of thing doesn’t happen on most basketball teams.
— The Warriors are 40 games ahead of the Lakers, and the Lakers aren’t even the worst team in the Western Conference (that would be Minnesota), and the T-Wolves aren’t even the worst team in the NBA (that’d be the Knicks).
— The Warriors have gone 16-2 since losing by 11 in Cleveland. One loss came by two in Brooklyn, thanks to Jarrett Jack’s game-winner. The other was the game in Denver where Kerr rested Thompson, Stephen Curry, Iguodala and Andrew Bogut.
— The average score of a Warriors game in March: Warriors 108.3, Opponent 95.7
— How good are the Warriors? Kerr gave Brandon Rush 17 minutes (no points, two rebounds, four personal fouls) and Curry kept handing the ball over with fancy dribbling maneuvers that didn’t quite work, and this game was never in doubt.
— Curry did go 6-for-9 on threes. That’s his 12th game with six threes this year. His 12th!!!
— Here’s Curry’s most ludicrous three of the night, where he lost the ball in the paint (on purpose?) against Jared Dudley, then juked and wiggled his way back to the three-point line and nearly got a four-point play out of it.
— We know they’re the best three-point shooting backcourt in the league; does any backcourt in the league make more reverse layups than Curry and Thompson?
— The Hawks — who lost in Charlotte by 15 on Saturday night — have conceded the top record in the NBA to the Warriors, who dropped their magic number on that end to five. So what’s left? Well, if they win out, they’ll end up with a record of 69-13. That’d match the 1971-72 Lakers and 1996-97 Bulls for the second-best mark of all time. #QuestFor69 … nice.