After Wednesday’s deflating collapse against the Washington Wizards, Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said that the team was merely fatigued at the end of a five-game road trip. He confidently stated that he loved where the team was, and they just ran out of gas.
It’s easy to see why.
The Warriors returned home, to the sweet confines of their glitzy new arena, and found, for the first time all season, fans waiting for them there.
And then they proceeded to play some of the best basketball they’ve played all year, on both ends of the court, and beat one of the best teams in the league. After 48 minutes of entertainment, the Warriors had beaten the Denver Nuggets 118-97.
It took a false start. Just a few minutes into the game, Steph Curry signaled to the bench that he needed to be taken out. He immediately took off his shoe and ankle brace, then headed to the locker room.
Everyone’s heart stopped.
But he returned a few minutes later, the culprit reportedly merely an issue with his brace and taping. He got re-outfitted, and returned to the game.
That changed his rotation pattern, and for the first half he seemed a little bit thrown off. He wasn’t playing poorly, as he did in Washington, but he wasn’t finding his signature groove or breaking down the defense at will. He ended the first half with just 7 points, and no threes made. Yet the Warriors led 54-50, a testament to ... well ... really everyone who took the court.
And then the second half came, and Curry joined the party that his friends had started. Despite the slow start, he re-started his 30-point streak, with 32 on 11-for-18 shooting, plus 8 rebounds, 3 assists, and a plus-minus of +27.
And yes, plenty of moments that made you scratch your head and ask, “how?”
The dude is just unreal.
But more than any Curry magic, the story of the game was the team starting to come together to play high-caliber basketball. Draymond Green was nothing short of sensational, leading a defensive charge that held one of the league’s greatest offenses (sans Jamal Murray and Will Barton, admittedly) under 100 points. He also grabbed 12 rebounds and dished out a career high 19 assists.
Kelly Oubre Jr. looked like a player poised to win the Sixth Man of the Year Award next year if the Warriors can convince him to re-sign, as he poured in 23 points on 9-for-16 shooting, with 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, and 2 blocks. He, Andrew Wiggins (who had an efficient night, and Juan Toscano-Anderson were nothing short of stars on defense, while Kevon Looney made life difficult for Nikola Jokić.
Add in 29 points on 22 shots from the guard combo of Jordan Poole and Mychal Mulder, and it was a total team effort.
More importantly, it looked like a repeatable team effort. The win wasn’t propped up by an unsustainable three-point percentage, or anything flukey. Rather, it was proof that the system can work. Mulder and Poole darted across the court to spring open like Klay Thompson does. Wiggins cut from the wing and Oubre from the baseline. Looney and Toscano-Anderson made the right reads and the right passes out. Curry and Green did the things that put rings on three of their fingers.
It was a sight to see, and just in time. The Warriors are now .500 as they embark on their final stretch of the season — a stretch that happens to be their easiest. They have 12 games remaining, and eight of them are at home. They have remaining contests against the Sacramento Kings, Houston Rockets, and Minnesota Timberwolves; two more games against the Oklahoma City Thunder; and three more against the New Orleans Pelicans.
Opportunity is knocking. If it’s this Warriors team that answers the door, things could get really interesting.
We’ll end with this: