For the last season and a half, the Golden State Warriors have owned the best point differential since the Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls. A point made ad nauseam, there were never many moments where the Warriors would squeeze out truly close game. With the relative health they enjoyed last season combined with the extraordinary play, there never actually came a time when a win or loss presented truly troubling signs. Granted, this game did none of those justice but the amount this game meant in evaluating the team (if one can even do so in a late-December regular season game) were near zero. I didn't even bother taking notes until the second half.
The Warriors of old would be the one playing superb basketball, with Monta Ellis, Stephen Jackson, or Calbert Cheaney going off for 20 points in the first half, and still trying to fight off a deficit at halftime. No matter what went right, the final score always fell on the wrong side. And on Thursday night, the last day of 2015, the Golden State Warriors truly made us feel the exact opposite of that emotion for the first time in this spectacular run they are embarking on. The Houston Rockets played well on offense, horrific on defense, and every time they went on a run, it collapsed in itself like all Houston Los Angeles Clippers Rockets runs usually go to die.
Ian Clark shot the ball like he shook hands with Stephen Curry and took all his powers. Klay Thompson rebounded from a poor effort yesterday and became, well, Klay Thompson again. Draymond Green became the peakest version of himself, Magic Johnson. Andrew Bogut recaptured the defense from last season and dissected the Rockets defense from the top of the key like Aaron Rodgers. Andre Iguodala shot free throws like this is 2009 again. James Michael McAdoo..did good things like jump passing lanes against an offense as sloppy as any they've played this season.
In a game where James Harden shot well, Dwight Howard taunted the Warriors with technical and block celebrations, they were nowhere to be found when the biggest plays were made. Repeatedly, the Warriors torched the Rockets on backside cuts off screens, simple backdoors, transition leakouts, or just a screen-and-slip.
Draymond finished with a ridiculous triple double that saw 16 assists go through the defense like a knife through hot butter. And this wasn't the Rajon Rondo kind of assist-seeking. It was all in the flow of the offense and the right play every single time. Luke Walton has caught a bunch of flak lately with his coaching, mostly his rotations, but his team played with much more intensity, and with the opposition playing with so little intelligence, allowing his team to remain engaged.
Without Harrison Barnes, Leandro Barbosa, Festus Ezeli, and Stephen Curry, the Warriors pulled out their inner San Antonio Spurs and found a way to win without a necessary out-of-character game from any of their players. Sparsely-used bench players made shots they wouldn't normally take or make within the rotation but it wasn't a miraculous finish Ian Clark made or a never-before-seen hustle rebound James Michael McAdoo leapt over Clint Capela for. A short-handed victory the Warriors can build off of, and a win that that pushes the record to 30-2.
Once upon a time, the Golden State Warriors would find and invent brand new ways to go along with the tried and true formulas to lose. Nowadays, in this brave new Warriors world, and into the new year, the Warriors are finding those new ways to win basketball games.
Have a Happy New Year.