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Warriors prove they are back amongst NBA elite in 117-99 win over the Brooklyn Nets

It looked like an NBA Finals preview early, before the Dubs pulled away in the third quarter.

Golden State Warriors v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

The Golden State Warriors took care of business on Tuesday, defeating the Nets 117-99. Brooklyn seemed like a challenge for the Dubs, one of the few other teams in the league with at least 10 victories. But, while it looked that way early, the Warriors dominated in the third quarter and finished another blowout victory.

Things got off to an exciting back-and-forth start, with former Warrior Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry leading their respective offenses. The entire Nets team was firing on all cylinders early, shooting .714/.667/.857 for the first seven minutes of regulation. However, the Nets came crashing down to earth for the remainder of the first half and never rebounded.

The return of Andre Iguodala alongside the emergence of Gary Payton II and rookie Jonathan Kuminga has made it even easier for head coach Steve Kerr to experiment with specialized schemes for each matchup. On Tuesday, the Warriors deployed a triangle-and-two defense to slow down Durant and guard James Harden whenever Brooklyn’s only other offensive threat, Patty Mills, was off the floor.

Kuminga once again received some early opportunities in the Dubs rotation. His final line was mired by 3 turnovers and 4 fouls, but he made an immediate impact when he took the floor.

In the final seconds of the first quarter, he grabbed an offensive rebound and dropped in his first bucket of the game. In the second quarter, he tipped another offensive rebound to Otto Porter Jr., finished a nice drive to the basket, drew a foul at the rim, and blocked a layup attempt by Harden. Kuminga continued proving he belongs in the Dubs’ rotation.

Brooklyn had some success early limiting Curry’s opportunities. However, after a down game in the Warriors’ second loss of the season, Steph was unstoppable. He managed just four shot attempts in the first quarter, all threes, all makes. It would prove a foreboding sign for the Nets.

Golden State began the second quarter trailing 34-31. Nets forward Bruce Brown racked up 14 first-half points and got plenty of opportunities with the Warriors focused on slowing down Durant and Harden. While Harden did not have much success from the field, he got the Dubs in foul trouble and had 14 points (8 on free throws) in the half as well.

Yet, despite 44 combined points from Durant, Harden, and Brown, the Warriors led 63-58 at the half. Brooklyn’s limitations inside were partially responsible, surrendering 9 offensive rebounds in the first half. However, Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins also caught fire, scoring 13 points in the second quarter. After a cold start to the season, Wiggins is averaging 24.5 points per game on .594/.400/.764 shooting over his past four games.

Coming out of halftime, the Warriors came out hot and quickly stretched the lead to double digits. A pair of jump shots from Harden cut the lead to five before the Dubs answered with a run that put the game to bed.

Curry and Wiggins committed their fourth fouls early in the third quarter, yet even with them on the bench, the Warriors built their lead to 20 points. Durant was 0-8 from the field in the third quarter, and the Nets mustered just 18 points against the Warriors’ stifling defense.

On the other end, Golden State attacked the Nets’ interior defense and finished the third quarter 10-for-11 from two-point range. Iguodala made a buzzer-beater three at the end of the quarter to cap off the run, stretching the lead to 22. Just like that, it felt over.

Curry re-entered to start the fourth and put the finishing touches on a fantastic night. In just 29 minutes, he recorded 37 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block. Warriors not named Stephen Curry finished the game 4-for-26 from three (15.4%), but Golden State won by 19 points anyway.

Draymond Green finished with 11 points, 6 rebounds, and 8 assists, but in quintessential fashion, the box score far from represented his overall impact. Now consistently flanked by talented perimeter defenders like Iguodala, Wiggins, Payton, and Kuminga, Green can be more aggressive and creative defensively. As a result, he’s thriving and back in the Defensive Player of the Year conversation.

Green appears to be at the heart of something special with the Warriors this season. The Warriors have dominated a weak schedule this season, but even a talented opponent like Brooklyn could not mount a consistent scoring attack for four quarters.

The Warriors improved perimeter shooting, with the eventual return of Klay Thompson alongside the additions of players like Nemanja Bjelica, Otto Porter Jr., and even Moses Moody was supposed to be what transformed the team this year.

While Bjelica and Porter have both had their moments, though, it’s been Golden State’s defense finding another gear that has driven their fantastic start. Through 14 games, the Warriors have a 98.9 defensive rating. For context, no team has recorded a single-season defensive rating below 100 since the 2015-16 San Antonio Spurs.

The Dubs have shot just 41.2% from the field and 24.1% from three in their two losses. That inefficiency should lead to losses in the modern NBA. Yet, even with those abysmal showings, Golden State’s two defeats were by just 4 and 3 points, respectively. Even on terrible offensive nights, the Warriors defense is keeping them in games.

The Warriors have been a fun story to many around the league. Off to a hot start against a weak schedule, it was enjoyable to see Golden State relevant again. Yet, watching them dominate the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday should serve as a warning to those outside the Dubs’ orbit. Finally, after two years far from championship contention, they are back at the center of the NBA. Steph Curry remains an unmatched offensive force while Draymond Green could be leading the NBA’s best defense in years.

Let’s say it together: The Warriors are back.

Oh yeah, Klay Thompson’s return is right around the corner too.