The Knicks ended the first quarter with a one-point lead, as the Warriors toyed with their prey like a cat pretending to let a wounded mouse escape. Golden State squashed Derek Fisher’s feeble squad with a 47-point second quarter, capped by this play.
I know, I know. There’s no suffocating, we’ll-switch-until-you-screw-up defense here, and you can’t explain the Warriors’ success without mentioning how they guard teams better than any other squad in the league. There’s no Klay Thompson, no Draymond Green, no five-passes-leading-to-an-open-three-in-the-corner-for-Harrison-Barnes. My apologies. All this play contains is the team’s two most irreplaceable players engaging in basketball pornography. Intersports pornography, at that.
The quarterback is Bogut, who shows better footwork than we’ve seen from a Bay Area signal caller since Alex Smith completed just about every pass he threw that one night in Glendale. The placement of his pass is ridiculous. Sometimes the most underrated aspect of basketball — in my humble opinion, anyway — is how accurate NBA players are when it comes to passing it to each other with good NBA defenders running around all over the place. And that’s just in the halfcourt. It’s not especially difficult to make an uncontested pass to someone 20 feet away, but try setting a can on a barstool 20 feet away and see how many times you knock it off with a pass. No, you’re wrong. You wouldn’t knock it off every time. Five out of seven times, tops.
Bogut takes a three-step drop and hurls a seed to his No. 1 wideout, Stephen Curry (and Bogut avoids the embarrassment of clipping the bottom of the backboard in the process), perfectly over the 2014-15 MVP’s right shoulder. Curry catches the pass, raises up and fires a three from 28 feet as the second quarter ends. Who does this, other than Curry? No one. Andrea Bargnani gets a lot of crap for his lack of production on the defensive end, and justifiably so, but he put a hand up. Even wide open, the act of catching a 70-foot pass and immediately firing a long-range jumpshot is incredibly difficult. Hell, the act of running and stopping that quickly is something most of us couldn’t master without an afternoon of practice, minimum.
I get that taking a play from a 31-point win over the Knicks and saying, “This represents the 2014-15 Warriors” is silly, because the Knicks should be relegated to the D-League for their performance this season. But this play displayed this team’s best trait.
No, it’s not defense.
No, it’s not unselfishness.
No, it’s not long-range shooting.
It’s skill. This team’s skill level is better than any I’ve ever seen. Curry’s shooting, ball-handling, awareness and passing are well-known and absolutely ludicrous. Bogut is the best passer at his height in the NBA today, and his defensive footwork borders on genius. No one understands how to separate an opponent from the ball in a one-on-one situation better than Draymond Green. Andre Iguodala plays the passing lanes as well as anyone. Klay Thompson possesses the kind of shot mechanics that won’t be replicated by robotic technology for at least 40 years. If you want to really go crazy, we can focus on Shaun Livingston’s post game, Mo Speights’ range for a guy his size and David Lee’s pick-and-roll prowess (well, in prior years we saw this from Lee).
Steve Kerr is clearly a fantastic coach, but I’m more in awe of his motivational tactics — his ability to get this team to squash inferior opponents with regularity during such a long season. And Joe Lacob owes him for getting this team to pass the ball and run an actual offense. But Kerr isn’t joking when he smiles and says he hit the lottery. He’s got a team full of magicians, and their talents don’t overlap to the point of superfluousness. And on a team full of players with rare skills, a center who can pass like Tom Brady and a point guard who can make the catch, stop, elevate and shoot with otherworldly accuracy stood out to me.
Well, tonight anyway. We’ll see what they do on Monday.