And in one stroke, the world came to realize what most GSoMers have known for months: the Golden State Warriors are in a league of their own.
Sunday, the Golden State Warriors became at least the best team of all time with their 72nd win of the season, beating the San Antonio Spurs 92-86 and shattering a number of extremely big records in the process.
They assured themselves a chance to win number 73 on Wednesday, at home versus Memphis. They broke the Spurs' 39-game-old undefeated streak. They won a regular season game in San Antonio for the first time since the St. Valentine's Day Victory, 1997. They set a new all-time record for road wins in a season (which, when you think about it, really ought to be more impressive than a home win record). And they guaranteed that no NBA team would beat them twice on the year, and the Warriors are the first team in the history of the Association to go an entire season without back-to-back losses.
Now to the game.
Make no mistake: this was a 10-out-of-10 on the difficulty scale. The Warriors rode into San Antonio after an intense brawl of a game with the Memphis Grizzlies (which they won 100-99). They would play their second game in 22 hours, on the road, against a rested Spurs team eager to protect their own prestigious record (they had a chance to become the first undefeated home team in NBA history). Oh, and by the way: those Spurs, at 65-14, were one of the very best teams in the history of the sport by win-differential, record and a number of predictive metrics. And they hadn't lost three straight games since approximately the Ford administration. And there's that whole regular-season winning streak against the Dubs (33 games, the second longest in NBA history).
10-out-of-10 probably doesn't do this game justice.
It was every bit the slow, plodding game that Warriors fans have come to fear.
In their lone win against Golden State this season, San Antonio kept the pace low. Like the Memphis Grizzlies and Cleveland Cavaliers last year, a bigger, slower team can gum up the Warriors offense by dominating the glass and getting extra shot attempts. But with Festus Ezeli and Andrew Bogut now healthy, the Warriors were prepared to go toe-to-toe with Los Spurs.
Despite some early turnovers, the Dubs were locked-in early. They may have played their best game of the season against one of the league's best offenses, holding San Antonio to 29% shooting in the first half (2-of-10 from three-point range). The players were fundamentally sound, preventing quality looks for San Antonio every possession.
The problem was the number of possessions. The Spurs beat the Warriors up on the offensive glass, edging them 13-3 in the first half. That meant 10 additional possessions, which allowed the Spurs to keep up with the Dubs. Meanwhile, San Antonio's defense was as good as advertised, limiting the Warriors to 35% shooting (4-of-12 from deep). At the half, the score was tied at a season-low 35 points. With just seven assists and 14 paint points in the first half, the Warriors were playing the game San Antonio wanted. And on the road, on the second part of a back-to-back, that's usually a recipe for disaster.
Amped up, sure. But effective? Not quite.
The Warriors opened up the second half by surrendering an 8-0 run to the Spurs. And in that moment, the MVP decided it was his turn. Stephen Curry casually dropped 15 points in the third quarter (a big total for a low scoring game), and flipped the score in no time. The pace quickened, and the Warriors took off on a number of fast breaks. Then the three balls began to fall, as they tend to do for the blue and gold. The quarter-by-quarter scores (14, 21, 27, 30) tells the story: the game started in San Antonio but definitely ended as a Golden State game.
Stephen Curry finished with a 37 point, 5 rebound, 5 assist performance...against one of the best defenses the league has ever seen, on the road. Draymond Green, Marreese Speights, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes and others all made huge contributions to get this one across the finish line, and once they did, it was time to celebrate on the river walk.
Too much to process now...and there will be a LOT written on this epic victory, so enjoy it. The greatest season in the history of the NBA just hit its climax.
- The Warriors, A's and Giants all won on Sunday. A perfect end to the weekend in the Bay Area.
- Stephen Curry had his 39th 30-point game of the season, which leads the league.
- Harrison Barnes was all over the place (in a good way). The Black Falcon continued his contract-push (or more optimistically, hit "playoff-mode" a few weeks early). He was only 3-of-10 from the floor, but his plus-16 plus-minus lead all players, and he constantly attacked the basket. He took nothing but quality shots within the flow of the offense, and looked like a player worthy of a mega-contract.
- Remember all those people, during the 24-0 start to the season, who went on air and said the Warriors had no chance of reaching 72 wins? Because I don't -- I haven't heard a peep out of them for months, now. If you know any of them, please tweet me.
Stay tuned to our Chasing 73 storystream for much more to come from GSoM between now and Wednesday.
Steve Kerr's record as Warriors head coach is 155-29, according to @Barryathree. According to me, that's pretty f***ing good.— Amin Elhassan (@AminESPN) April 11, 2016