This is a trap game. The kind good teams may drop more than once in a season. The kind great teams win every time. And the kind that historically fantastic teams rip the hearts out of the other team right from the start.
The Warriors have a chance to be a historically fantastic team this season, as they have gotten off to a 20-2 start. 20-2!!! Only eleven other teams have gotten off to such a sizzling start, with over half of them winning the title, per ESPN Stats and Info.
Warriors are 12th NBA team to start 20-2 or better. Six of the previous 11 teams won championship— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 13, 2014
These eleven teams include the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls, the gold standard of all NBA teams, that went 72-10 en route to their fourth title of the decade.
The list also includes the Boston Celtics of the late-2000s, a team that may very well be the best comparison for the Warriors: With Kevin Garnett anchoring the middle and stout perimeter defenders, the Celtics had the league's best defense in 2008, the year they won the title convincingly, and finished in the top five in both offensive rating and defensive rating in 2008-2009 -- when they began 27-2.
The Warriors to date have blitzed the league on defense and improved to a top-five offense, per NBA.com. Head Coach Steve Kerr has gone long and funky with his lineups, routinely putting Shaun Livingston on the floor with a combination of Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Harrison Barnes, and Draymond Green. These five players can switch at any point in time, as Kerr and Assistant Coach/defensive coordinator Ron Adams have utilized their length, athleticism, and quickness to stifle teams on the perimeter.
"[We've] got a bunch of versatile wing defenders, so we switch a lot," Kerr said. "Switching is difficult to deal with, because it disrupts the point of each play where you're trying to get an advantage with a screen, and when you switch teams tend to stop moving the ball and the shot clock winds down."
The Pelicans have already been a victim during the 15-game winning streak, crushed in Oakland 112-85 a mere ten days ago. Yes, Anthony Davis had some nasty dunks and went for 30 points and 15 rebounds, and New Orleans did get off to a fast start, but when the Warriors turned on the gas the game was basically over: The Warriors turned a six-point first quarter deficit into a 70-48 lead by the midway point of the third quarter -- outscoring the Pelicans 31-12 in the second quarter.
The Warriors clearly have the potential to do the same today, seeing as they held the Mavericks -- the league's top offense -- to just 40 percent shooting yesterday without Andrew Bogut. The Warriors have not let an opponent shoot 50 percent or better from the floor this year. And Anthony Davis is questionable with a chest contusion, which he suffered against the Cavaliers on Friday and caused him to stay overnight at the hospital.
Update: Anthony Davis will not play today.
Anthony Davis will not play against Warriors tonight due to chest injury: http://t.co/qShSm365iI pic.twitter.com/Tdw156WIBX— Jim Eichenhofer (@Jim_Eichenhofer) December 14, 2014
Golden State could go into this game with a lackadaisical attitude, nonchalant. They have won 15 in a row, nine consecutive on the road; already smashed the Pelicans, who won't even be playing without Davis, their lynchpin offensively and defensively; and just demolished the healthy Mavericks -- clearly a better team than New Orleans -- yesterday in an unusual tip-off time. You couldn't blame them if they did.
But they won't. The Warriors will come out strong, because this year they have the firepower on offense and defense, the motivation, and the push from the coaching staff to improve every game and not to treat any opponent lightly.
The Warriors are just too talented, too motivated, and have too much momentum to let a bunch of birds stop them, especially not having Davis to face today. Look for Steve Kerr's squad come out firing on offense as they did yesterday and smothering on defense.
- Stephen Curry goes for 28 points, eight assists, eight rebounds, and three steals
- Klay Thompson adds 24 with five three-pointers
- The Warriors hold the Pelicans to just 37% shooting, under 30% from three
- Golden State routs the Pelicans 108-91