After the end of a long road trip, following a game that felt like it'd never end yet may have been over before it began, on the final day of a nearly unprecedented month of success, the Golden State Warriors are heading home tied for the best record in the NBA after a 104-93 victory over the Detroit Pistons.
The Warriors are 14-2, tied with the Memphis Grizzlies for tops (at the time of this writing; looks like the Grizz may be on their way to win No. 15 against the Sacramento Kings). They finished the five-game road trip undefeated, the first and only such sweep since 1978. Their 13-2 record in November is tied for the most wins the team has had in any month, in any season, since they moved to the West Coast. And none of this is a fluke. "You don't think Marreese Speights playing out of his damn mind, with .637 TS% and 28.7 PER is a fluke?" says somebody just as astounded as I am about this development. We'll get back to that.
Trouncing the opposition is much easier when you get to play the Detroit Pistons, who look entirely aimless and deflated. They are what you think of when you hear that a team is "going through the motions." Contrary to the implications of speed and power that the Motor City moniker on their admittedly decent sleeved jerseys spells, they are a Ford C-Max without the fuel efficiency. Although Detroit's defense took advantage of a sloppy noon-time Warriors start, they were soon put in the rear view. Leandro Barbosa had a nice stint in the first quarter, with a couple cherry-picks contributing to a 10-2 run that helped put the Warriors in a better place heading into the second quarter. From there, Speights and Harrison Barnes pretty much had their way with the Detroit bench, helped by some smart play by Shaun Livingston. Curry and Draymond Green finished off the quarter to build a 13-point halftime lead.
Despite the commendable efforts by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to make this a contest, the Pistons never truly challenged. Josh Smith almost had a triple double, with 14 points, 12 assists, and nine rebounds, along with four steals, helping the Pistons cut the lead to 10 in the third quarter; he had five of his assists in that stretch, hitting KCP for open shots. Detroit's bench players promptly negated those contributions.
Klay Thompson had a mediocre game and was played pretty well by Caldwell-Pope. Klay had a couple turnovers where he went up in the air for a pass and had nowhere to go — the sort of turnover that the Warriors have been able to largely cut out over their last eight games. Stephen Curry didn't blow the doors off the hinges either, though played a very controlled game, with 16 points on nine shots, dishing 10 dimes, and turning the ball over just once. His tweaked ankle is hopefully not cause for concern, with x-rays having come back negative and everyone feeling confident that it's minor.
As predicted by Garry St. Jean, Andrew Bogut completely took Andre Drummond out of the game. While Drummond and other Pistons missed a lot of shots right at the rim, Bogut did them no favors by contesting everything, picking up five blocks and numerous other might-as-well-be-blocks. Drummond finished 1-of-8.
Meanwhile, about Speights: Listen, I just don't know anymore. Speights has been the unwilling butt end of my joking derision for the past two years, and I'm done with that — his contributions on this road trip alone were tremendous, and we simply would not have come away 5-0 without him. I'm eating a full helping of crow, with a side of leftover cranberry sauce.
Speights did not have his now-usual ultra-efficient game, going just 4-of-14 from the field. But he did pull down 12 boards to go with his 11 points in 19 minutes, and he threaded the needle on a pass to a cutter that dropped my jaw. He's doing things out there on the court that past coaches must have had no idea he was capable of.
Today's Warrior Wonder goes to hometown kid Draymond Green. Four of his career-high five three pointers came during the stretch surrounding halftime in which the Warriors went on a 24-4 run, effectively informing us of the outcome.
Between the emergence of Green as a capable shooter from distance, and Speights as a stretch 5 who creates an impossible riddle for defenses dealing with the pick and roll, the eventual return of David Lee has become a Good Problem To Have; it's unclear how the minutes and field goal attempts will shake out, and while concerns for their balance and the team's overall heretofore excellent on-court chemistry are warranted, I'm more curious than worried. Steve Kerr has made good personnel and rotation decisions thus far, and Lee's minutes are most likely to come at the expense of Festus Ezeli and Leandro Barbosa. If your back-four players are Lee, Iguodala, Speights, and Livingston, you should be thanking your lucky stars.
And to be sure, we'll want that luxury as things get tougher in December. Even a relatively cupcake five-game undefeated road trip is impressive, but the real tests come in games against the Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, and Grizzlies, all of whom we'll see within a single week. Still, after witnessing this Warriors November, one can't help but feel good about the future.