Throughout the glorious win streak that evoked both feelings of Cinderella and Goliath, the Golden State Warriors never wavered in their belief that was and remains a deserved regularly sustained occurrence. Regardless of the deficits in the fourth quarters, the injuries to key players, the jumbled rotations cobbled together because of a results-over-process mindset, and the long winding road trip, this crew of defending champions pushed until the line went flat and the tone went ringing aimlessly into the night.
Draymond Green said after the loss against the Milwaukee Bucks that "the regular season can finally start."
It certainly feels as if this dream reaching its fever pitch prevented the Warriors from playing the style of basketball which made them this great in the first place. Elite teams pride themselves on the delineation of process and results, always worrying about what they did right or wrong in the moment without gauging in hindsight because of the outcome.
Klay Thompson’s comment that nobody could stop them and they just missed open shots are the epitome of what a team that’s fully confident in their own abilities; despite the team losing a bit of its identity in this win streak, they still trusted what got them there instead of what happened there.
In the last two weeks, the Warriors had started to wane on defense. Andrew Bogut played with spurts of last season’s vigor but failed to sustain that ability through entire games. Without Harrison Barnes, the smaller lineups had a rougher time rebounding and the bench units lacked any kind of punch without the necessary spacing. On offense, the health of Klay Thompson exemplified just how much the other Splash Brother meant in scaring entire defenses away from Stephen Curry. As for the MVP, the more the Warriors relied on his impossible shot creation and making, the more he shouldered and powered through the streak. But sooner or later, everyone falls, and Curry’s legs abandoned him during the last two games when teams singularly focused on him.
The incessant chipping and grinding of opposing teams at the Great Wall finally found its way to their collapse.
This isn’t to complain about the masking of the underlying issues as a way of demeaning the historic win streak the Warriors so gloriously embarked on before it fell Saturday night. The wins were a part of something more than themselves. It captivated a nation full of fans, doubters, and even the casual uninterested mass. Though not advised, I had friends watching games from their phones during traffic trying to get home. There was no moment of a matchup that made taking a "restroom break" such a cluelessly naive idea. Miss 30 seconds and Stephen Curry could have launched a 30-foot jumper with one hand while falling down. Grab some chips from the living room and the Death Lineup just scrambled itself into 3 steals and 3 made treys. It could be that quick, it was that quick, and all of this was a whirlwind never more entertaining in the moment than in its entirety.
Now some form of normalcy will settle itself as the Warriors prepare for the Christmas Day affair with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Until then, we reroute ourselves back to hand-wring and fretting over Marreese Speights’ continual playing time despite his errant everything on either end, the over-reliance on Curry and Green, Iguodala’s sudden shot struggles, and whatever small nitpick there is to a 24-1 team. And yet that’s the point.
The Warriors are again a standard basketball team again, criticized during losses, analyzed in terms of process during wins instead of painting a historical landscape with each victory. Perhaps this run starts again. Maybe they’ll break 33 without the controversy with whether last season’s wins carry over. Maybe this is still the greatest season of all time. But for now, the Golden State Warriors can catch their collective breaths and work on their flaws without the entire world expecting miracles made out air. With the season over a quarter in, this is as good a time as any.