Sometime during the first half of the Golden State Warriors' game on Saturday night, the guy sitting a couple seats over leaned over me and yelled over the noise of the arena, "This is the same team that just lost to the Kings?! THE KINGS!?!?"
He had that tone of drunken, panicked disbelief that you can really only imagine in the context of being caught up in the moment at an arena. And really, it wasn't so much "yelling" as much as that sort of loud talking that happens in the buzz of people talking in a public place, mostly growing anxiety about the possibility of finally dealing with loss to a team that everyone thought the Warriors would steamroll.
All I could do was shake my head as I was equally guilty of the overconfidence that so many other Warriors fans had shown up to the arena with — as I walked toward the Coliseum BART station on my way to the game, a neighborhood kid chatting with friends or family on the sidewalk asked who the Warriors were playing.
"Oh, that's easy money," he said matter-of-factly when I told him who had shown up to challenge the champs.
"20 point win or bust!" I yelled back with a smile as he had already moved on to conversations more worthy of his concern.
It's really hard to fully appreciate the Warriors' game on Saturday night without mentioning the outcome of the Brooklyn Nets' loss to the Sacramento Kings on the previous night.
The Nets — who entered the game with a record that seemed perfectly representative of where they'll stand in the pecking order of the league at the end of the season — were coming off a heartbreaking loss to the Sacramento Kings on the previous night that they practically gave away in the final minutes in a comedy of errors. If they weren't simply resigned to their obvious fate against the champs, practically everyone seemed to believe that they'd be too exhausted — emotionally and physically — to find the energy to stay with the NBA's juggernaut for more than even a quarter.
Instead, they came out looking for something to redeem themselves against a team that has proven merciless thus far this season.
Despite the expectations, the Nets were up 13 then 15 and eventually 17 points around the point that the impassioned fan next to me fell into a state of panic. Meanwhile, the undefeated Warriors looked like a team either without answers or still stunned that they needed to have them against a team they may well have overlooked a bit.
It was quickly turning into a way-too-early opportunity for the Nets to play spoiler in a season that looks to be lost with a future that looks to be bleak. If they did nothing else of note this season, they could maybe, possibly say that they were the ones that had walked into Oracle Arena and stolen a win from the champs against all odds — maybe they'd be the answer to the trivia question, "Which team beat the Warriors at home during the 2015-16 season?"
Yet after old friend Jarrett Jack was whistled for a eight second backcourt violation, Andre Iguodala hit an amazing game-tying three with five seconds left, and Stanford alum Brook Lopez blew a point blank putback at the buzzer, it wasn't hard to find signs of demoralization setting in for the Nets — less than 10 games into the season, they were already weary from the trauma of loss and preparing themselves for yet another disappointment.
Anthony Puccio of SB Nation's Nets Daily perfectly summarized the mood among Nets fans after their weekend trip to Northern California.
For the second straight night, the Nets were tested in the final seconds. Last night they failed. Tonight they failed...As you figured, the Warriors went wild in the overtime period while the Nets grew stagnant. Golden State finished with a 10-2 advantage and went on to win by an 8-point margin.
And we've been there before, really not all that long ago; the crazy thing about the Warriors' sudden dominance is that, as a fan, I'm still used to being on the other end of these things and to some extent conditioned to accept it to the point of being disoriented when the Warriors continue to do things that disconfirm my beliefs.
For those of you whose Warriors fandom began with We Believe or after, this might not resonate as strongly. But for those of us who endured The Dark Ages (historians debate the exact range of this time period, but it's approximately the years between 1997-2002 when the Warriors struggled to win more than a quarter of their games), what Nets fans are going through might be unfortunately familiar. It's not just that the Nets looked completely out of place being on the same court as the Warriors — a feeling I remember well when the Warriors would face a top team on national TV during The Dark Ages — but that they seem to have no plan, no direction, and no real hope for the future.
Saturday night might realistically have been the one thing Nets fans had to celebrate this season, given that they'll lose the high draft pick that they've "earned" as Andrew Flohr highlighted before the game on Saturday. After high-fiving the random, nameless strangers who I'd shared that temporary bond with through the rollercoaster of anxiety and jubilation on Saturday night, I left the arena mostly feeling relieved that we're past the days where disappointment was a regular occurrence, maybe even more than the feeling of excitement about the Warriors still being undefeated.
Other Warriors news from the weekend
- There was quite a bit of discussion about whether the Nets should've fouled at the end of the game before Iguodala's shot, from both the Warriors perspective and Nets perspective (here and here, respectively). But how about this twist on intentional fouls: Hack-a-Curry. I'll let Scott Davis of Yahoo do the explaining of this one:
Curry is shooting 94% from the free throw line this season, so intentionally fouling him more than likely will result in two points. This strategy isn't about the math as much as it's about the intangible effect — stopping the flow of the Warriors offense and taking Curry out of a rhythm.
- Despite having a bit of an off night (13-for-31 shooting), Curry had plenty of highlights on Saturday night en route to his game-high 34 points: passing his father in career 3-pointers made, a really entertaining duel with Jack, and a DUNK...sort of. David Astramskas of BallIsLife.com did a good job compiling video and an infographic.
Draymond Green is beginning to get more attention for this performance during the Warriors' undefeated start to the 2015-16 season and it's nice to see. And the thing that is really standing out after consecutive games with 12 assists is his ability to distribute the ball. After the Warriors' win against the T'Wolves on Thursday, Andy G of Punch-Drunk Wolves — honestly, one of my favorite NBA blogs and Twitter follows anywhere — wrote that, "Green has become the most versatile player in the NBA."
...he can facilitate offense for his teammates, off the dribble. When he catches that roll pass from Curry, and it’s 3 against 4 for the defense, Green is looking to the corners for three-point shooters, or up high to Festus Ezeli for a lob dunk. Last night, he made both passes look effortless. The lobs were dunked. The kick-outs were converted for threes. Green, the former second-round pick, had 23 points on 8-10 shooting, to go along with 8 rebounds and 12 — TWELVE — assists. He’s become undeniably one of the best forwards in the league.
This is what happens when you trap Steph Curry. Don't trap Steph Curry. It ain't Spring 2014 https://t.co/emo4Zz7cSL— Nate P (@NateP_SBN) November 13, 2015
Jack Winter and Spencer Lund of DIME had more to say about Green's role as Curry-release-valve in an extended analysis of Green's 4-on-3 playmaking, breaking down what Green is doing so well when teams try to blitz/trap Curry to get it out of his hands.
Green is the benefactor of this strong show to stop Steph. When that happens, Dray has learned exactly what he can get with the resulting 4-on-3...In 2015-16, there's a different type of interior player that has usurped the stretch 4 as an offensive trump card, and Green is its prototype.
Who's the only other true big man who could make that lob pass to Festus Ezeli while holding his own in the paint and on the glass? Blake Griffin. Unlike his Warriors rival, though, the Los Angeles Clippers superstar has evolved into a playmaker. Green was born one, and he makes that reality abundantly clear several times per game.
How many point guards in the NBA would even see a pass like this one, let alone complete it?
- Describing Green's stat lines as "Rajon Rondo-esque" and "exactly what the Warriors need", Gerald Bourguet of HoopsHabit offered specifics about Green's assisting tendencies.
Green’s fit with the Warriors is perfect for both him and the Dubs. As the roll guy on pick-and-roll sets featuring Curry (who is the league’s most dangerous ball handler/shooter coming off screens), Green is doing serious when he catches the ball...Green rarely creates his own offense (especially from three-point range), but he’s been extremely effective creating offense for others, with the fifth highest assist ratio among players playing at least 25 minutes per game (34.0).
Of his 66 total assists, 10 have come to Festus Ezeli, usually by drawing the defense in and finding the Warriors’ promising big man for easy alley-oops and dunks.
Even more impressively, 30 of Green’s 66 assists have gone to the Splash Brothers, with Draymond finding open shooters on the perimeter and making plays besides the obvious dump-down looks.
Diamond Leung of The Bay Area News Group also gave Green some love in his article detailing three reasons why the Warriors are off to such a hot start, but also shared a little nugget of insight about Festus Ezeli's early season improvement.
Bogut said Ezeli's previous trouble catching the ball could have come about because of nerves while playing limited minutes. But now, Ezeli has started nine of the Warriors' 10 games and gotten so comfortable in the role that the coaching staff is pondering making it permanent.
- However, Michael Erler of SB Nation's Pounding the Rock and Today's Fastbreak noted how much better the Warriors are with Andrew Bogut in the starting lineup compared to Festus Ezeli, adding some fuel for the debate about which should start.
The starting lineup has barely tread water with Ezeli in there, with a net rating of plus-3.5 over 107 minutes per NBA.com’s stat index, whereas it’s at plus-33.4 in 19 minutes with Bogut. Obviously 19 minutes doesn’t sound like much — and it’s not — but even though he’s only played in four games, it’s still been the fifth-most commonly used lineup for the team and fully benefiting from the continuity and chemistry they developed last season.
Obviously, there were probably more links from the weekend that you enjoyed. Feel free to share them in the comments or write a FanPost if you have a longer commentary to make.