Now that it’s 2014, I’d like to introduce you to the hottest team in the NBA right now: the Golden State Warriors. With a thoroughly dominant win on the road against the defending champion Miami Heat last night, the Dubs extended their current winning streak to seven games. The last time the Warriors won seven games in a row was 2005. Not too long ago I wrote that Golden State’s current seven-game road trip would reveal whether or not this team is for real. After a 3-0 start to the trip, it’s pretty clear the Warriors are like Hansel from Zoolander. The Western Conference’s elite should be on watch.
At 21-13, Golden State’s record doesn’t look all that impressive on paper. They’re currently sixth in the Western standings thanks to a Phoenix Suns loss against the Memphis Grizzlies last night. But here’s another record that’s more important for Golden State: 16-3. With Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala and Andrew Bogut healthy and in the starting lineup, the Dubs have posted a 16-3 record. That’s a smaller sample size, but it’s still a better winning percentage than any other team’s starting five.
What was more impressive about last night’s victory over the Heat is that it didn’t feel like a fluke. Although the Warriors shot 56 percent from the field in the game and went 15-for-29 from 3-point range, most of those shots came naturally through Golden State’s impressive offense. David Lee was unstoppable in the paint, tallying 32 points and 14 rebounds, which opened things up for the Dubs’ perimeter shooters. Curry had an incredible third quarter (as he often does), but that was the only section of the game where it felt like Golden State was playing out-of-their-mind basketball.
Curry dropped 14 points in the third but he finished with 36 points, 12 assists and four steals, so he was pretty consistent through out. Klay Thompson had 16 on a pretty poor shooting night (6-of-15) and Harrison Barnes added 15 off the bench, but it Draymond Green‘s minutes in the fourth quarter made the difference for the Warriors. Although LeBron James hurt the Heat for the most part with eight turnovers, he came to life in the fourth quarter as he often does. But Green’s defense limited James as well as anyone can, which allowed Lee and Curry to finish things off on the offensive end.
The fact that Miami was able to keep it close in the fourth quarter is both a testament to how good the Heat are and how the win was not outlandish for the Warriors. They played a tremendous game, but Golden State still looked vulnerable in certain areas. On a night where the Warriors shot 63 percent in the first half, the Dubs countered that with 20 turnovers that led to 32 points for the Heat. The turnover battle was supposed to decide the game for a turnover-prone team like the Warriors, but Golden State still somehow got the win over one of the NBA’s best teams.
The thing is, NBA championships aren’t won in January. But a big win like this, in the middle of a seven-game road trip, is a pretty big boost in confidence for a team that could end up playing Miami in the NBA Finals if both teams make it that far. Could Golden State shoot the lights out in a seven-game series when the pressure’s on? No one can say for sure. But the Warriors have gotten the last two road wins in Miami of any Western Conference team in the past year. And if tonight is any indicator, Lee’s unique abilities in the paint and the incredible 3-point shooting of this balanced roster is an effective formula for success against the Heat.
Stephen Curry is ridiculous. A glitch in the system. Great game from Lee, too. Crucial to have a a big who can shoot/dribble/pass vs MA.
— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) January 3, 2014
From here the Warriors’ road trip gets a little easier, with road games against the Atlanta Hawks, Washington Wizards, Milwaukee Bucks and Brooklyn Nets to close things out. Atlanta is the only team with a winning record of those four. However, the Hawks might prove to be a formidable challenge on the second game of a back-to-back after Curry logged 44 minutes last night. The good news is Bogut only played 18 minutes, so the Aussie should be as spry as a spring
kangaroo chicken tonight.
LeBron’s skid marks may have been one of the bigger stories of the night, but Golden State being the hottest team in the NBA should be the prevailing headline of the night. It’s just one win in January, but it solidifies the idea that when they’re healthy, the Warriors are as good as anybody in the league. And for a team that got off to a “slow” start, finishing off a successful road trip like this is the path to the top of the West.
— Gerald Bourguet (@GeraldBourguet) January 3, 2014