Well that feels good, doesn't it?
In the Golden State Warriors' first game back since sending their league-best backcourt to All Star Weekend, that very same backcourt showed just how dominant they can be. And they did it against their immortal nemeses, the San Antonio Spurs, the ageless constants of excellence that may finally have showed a bit of age.
Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson will give their opponents gray hair. 45 points tonight between the brothers Splash, with Steph also serving 11 assists. The two of them went 7-15 combined from the three point line, including a couple of Curry's patented off-the-dribble step-back morale-busting bombs.
Listen, I grouped Steph with Klay above because that's practically standard operating procedure these days, but there are no two ways about it — Steph is the clear Warrior Wonder tonight, so let's just get that over with.
Curry's shooting was as one expects on a regular basis — you know, standard out-of-this-world class stuff. But the whole package was on display tonight, largely at the expense of a raggedly-run Tony Parker. Steph repeatedly got past him in pick and roll situations, leading to kickouts for shooters at the arc, or finishes at the rim — including a beautiful behind-the-back doozy of a drive. When Patty Mills amped up the on-ball defense, Curry took care of the ball, turning it over just twice. Meanwhile, Steph's own defense on Parker was superb, particularly in how he anticipated and worked around screens with Tim Duncan and the other Spurs bigs — the starting point of most Popovich-engineered kill sequences. Parker ended the game with no field goals and just two points on two free throw attempts. Steph victimized other Spurs on the defensive end as well, leading to four more steals for the league-leader in the category.
The first 18 minutes of the game were shaping up as one might expect between the best in the league and the veteran champs who've had GSW's number for too long. Both teams made it hard on each other, and for neither team did it really matter — high shooting percentages were being sported by both teams despite scrappy defense and tough buckets.
That kind of came to an end when Curry was called for a foul that neither he nor Steve Kerr believed happened, leading to technical fouls for both. I don't know if that fired Kerr up such that he started coaching his ass off, but it certainly fired Curry up who then played his ass off, taking Thompson and Harrison Barnes along for the ride. Curry and Draymond Green cranked that up to what I can regretfully only call SWAGGER, which the Oracle crowd gleefully feasted upon.
And suddenly we were in now-familiar territory: a halftime lead that explodes into a third quarter romp followed by a worrisome but mostly innocuous fourth quarter of quasi garbage time and quasi garbage play. In the stretches surrounding halftime, the Spurs (who played the Clippers in LA the night prior) fell victim to the fast break, scattered defense that didn't put a wrench in their shot-creating apparatus, and ultimately better play by younger, fresher talent.
After the game, Steve Kerr said, "It's pretty simple for us: defend like crazy, take care of the ball, move the ball." Breaking that down a bit: the Spurs did shoot 48% to their credit, but that was helped by Aron Baynes and Boris Diaw scoring out of isolation mismatches rather than their usual machine-driven efficiency; the Warriors also turned them over 16 times. GSW took care of the ball, finishing with 12 total turnovers despite seven of those coming in the first 16 minutes. And they moved the ball as usual, ending with 29 assists on 41 made field goals.
This game wasn't without the usual points of concern. Our two super-subs (Andre Iguodala and David Lee) played great, especially Andre, who was decisive in his shot selection and sunk a few step-in three pointers without any hint of considering an extraneous pass or drive. Lee played an aggressive game on both ends, finishing 5-5 from the field.
But aside from those two sterling gentlemen, the bench wasn't bringing much to the table. Shaun Livingston continues to play a nebulous role on offense, serving as more of a ball handler than a point guard, per se. Leandro Barbosa has his moments (though one of those moments included violently careening into Steph during a loose-ball tussle), and Marreesse Speights is always a threat to have an impact performance, but the quality of consistency isn't quite where one would like it. This may become less important as we approach the playoffs — this team certainly has a brilliant-enough top seven to overcome wobbliness at eight and nine — but if one had to look for fault as indicated by this game, that would be where you found it.
At the end of the day, though, this is what we have: an 11 point victory over the San Freaking Antonio Freaking Spurs in which no Warriors player notched over 33:04 minutes, and all that while wearing those hot Chinese New Year alternates. A great way to get back to business as the bottom half of the season jumps off.