What sets this Warriors team apart from last year’s? I mean, other than Andre Iguodala, a healthy Andrew Bogut, an extra year of gelling among the core, and an underperforming bench? It’s their tendency to leave no doubt about who’s the better team. No playing down to opponents of a lesser stature: they’re blowing teams out of the building.
Tonight’s contest against the Utah Jazz could have been a trap game. Instead, it was a skull-crushing defeat. Oh, not the game — that ended as a 98-87 victory that was only that close because of some increasingly commonplace trashy garbage time. I’m talking about the hip drop on Stephen Curry’s defenseless dome, the newest in increasingly creative ways to injure our superstar and cause us Roaraclers to chew off our fingernails.
No, but he’s fine, just a headache. We can all breathe easy, kinda like we were during that second quarter when Curry entered Godmode and single-handedly made the Jazz look like the 1-11 team that they are.
Leading up to that point, the winning proposition was slightly more dubious. The guys in blue were not offensively crisp early; while they were valiantly working in the paint against Utah’s big horses, point blank shots were rimming out, Klay Thompson was pressing, and only some timely shots in the arm by Harrison Barnes gave the Warriors the first quarter lead. Oh, that and some terrific defense and backboard dominance. Both teams were shooting in the low 30%s at the turn.
And then they outscored the Jazz by 20 points in the second quarter. Shots started falling, spurred on by Curry’s usual wizardry: pull-up 18 footer; a three in transition; another three from the top of the key; and an extra three later in the quarter, just to prove that the missed shot in between was a fluke. The contagion that Steph unleashed quickly spread to Thompson, who, after going 1-8 in the first, hit his only two shots (both treys) in the quarter.
Another contributor not to be overlooked in that second quarter was Draymond Green, whose defensive intensity gave the team a jolt it needed. He was also a key member of one of the craziest damn lineups Jackson has ever conceived of: Green, Curry, Thompson, Barnes, and Iguodala. Contrary to what any sane person would have anticipated, Jermaine O’Neal’s injury replacement at the 5 was Draymond (and also Marreese Speights, who might be better suited as a stretch 5 anyway, but I digress). I believe that group scored twice in the open floor and maybe drew a foul, while giving up a bucket and a foul in four possessions of frantic zone defense. Really just fun, terrific stuff there. I hope to never see it again.
So here we are: huge lead against a terrible team who looked demoralized after getting run over before the half, even hearing boos from the crowd at Toxic Waste Disposal Arena. Time to step on their throats! That, of course, did not happen, as the Warriors didn’t seem quite prepared for a burst of effort by the Jazz, led by the inimitable Diante Garrett. A string of sloppy turnovers and much improved Jazz defense resulted in nearly four and a half minutes of scoreless Golden State basketball, while their own defense seemed a step slow and, frankly, uncaring. Were the starters gassed? Were they just temporarily outplayed by a desperate team making their inevitable push, as nearly all NBA teams do when they’re down big and their superior opponents forget about the gas pedal? Should we be worried about this?
Nah. I mean, sure, the Jazz cut the lead from 28 to 13, but the Warriors still had a 13 point lead! And Draymond Green, along with Harrison Barnes (who looked stellar today — assertive and confident, jump shot was in balance), calmed the waters as Curry, Bogut, and David Lee took a refreshment break. While Lee didn’t come back in until late (and he only played 27 mins tonight, though he still managed to pull 14 points and 14 boards, including five OREBs), Bogut and Curry did come back refreshed, and helped put the finishing touches on a dominant win. Even while Curry was getting WWE’d by Marvin Williams, the defensive intensity went the way of the ratchet, the Jazz rolled over, the lead ballooned back up to 25, and that was all she wrote. And, yeah, she didn’t write about garbage time, because ugh.
It’s hard to draw too many conclusions when you have a good team and you beat the snot out of the (current) worst team. But the conclusion anyway is this: you DID beat the snot out of the worst team, in their building, on a night when you weren’t playing great. And, if it becomes a pattern, that’s the sign not just of a good team, but of a great team.
I wish I could give the Warrior Wonder to tonight's most important player: Team Rebounding. We outrebounded the Jazz, normally a good offensive rebounding team, by 17 — and on a night where the Warriors only shot 40.5% from the field (ok, 43% if you don't include the 0-for that the garbage unit posted) the rebounding made all the difference.
But, since I never made a graphic for Team Rebounding, I had to turn to tonight's Game Links poll. Tonight's poll winner was actually "Our bench puts the garbage in garbage time", whom I also never made a graphic for — SO, Steph wins by default. 33 minutes, 22 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds, looked like a superstar, had his head smashed into the floor, yada yada. You've heard it all before. Except for the head smash stuff. Let's hope that's the first and last time we hear of it.