With a 128-122 overtime win over the New Orleans Pelicans, the Golden State Warriors, led by the unstoppable Stephen Curry, are now being judged and compared by their part in NBA history, almost detached from the rest of the inferior teams in the league.
Curry scored 34 points to help the Warriors improve to 21-2, including 16 consecutive wins. In overtime, the Warriors quickly jumped to a six point lead, keeping that distance thanks to Curry hitting a couple of deep 3-pointers, finishing with 6-of-10 from beyond the arc. He also grabbed 7 rebounds to go with 7 assists, as the Warriors stayed on course despite another game with Andrew Bogut, meaning their defense was a lot easier to score against.
Only eight other teams in NBA history have won 21 of their first 23 games. Four of them: The Bulls in 1996, Rockets in 1994, Knicks in 1970 and Sixers in 1967 actually ended up winning the NBA title, which puts the Warriors against some very impressive competition when trying to compare this team to over dominant forces in the league. The thing about the Warriors is how strange their situation has become.
A franchise that missed the playoffs so many times for over a decade except for one season (missed all from 1995 to 2012 except for 2007) hires a head coach that takes them to the postseason in 2013, reaching the conference semifinals. A year later, the Warriors improve but the West improves with them, and they get knocked out of the first round. The players love the coach but he gets fired for his relationship with assistants, the front office and his refusal to move ahead with the times.
They hire Steve Kerr, and suddenly they’re the best in the league? One interesting thing about championship teams: They often lose before they get to the promised land. The Warriors have two appearances in two years, winning just one of three series. That’s not exactly the usual learning curve you expect from a playoff team, but when you’re good, and the Warriors look better than anyone right now despite the missing players, it doesn’t matter what happened before.
Maybe Kerr’s biggest adjustment was making the bench a worthy second unit. By moving Andre Iguodala to the second unit he earned himself a play maker and defensive star while saving Harrison Barnes, who was struggling coming off the bench. The starting lineup on both ends of the floor didn’t get hurt, while the additions of Leandro Barbosa and Shaun Livingston didn’t go unnoticed, getting 48 points from their second unit.
The Pelicans, playing without Anthony Davis, managed to make a game of it. But when you look at the Sacramento Kings firing their head coach after an 11-13 start to the season, you have to wonder if the same thing is going through the minds of decision makers in New Orleans, having themselves a very talented team that’s fallen to 11-12 and a head coach in Monty Williams that just can’t seem to get the defensive game on track.