The question on many people’s mind right now is — Can the Golden State Warriors be stopped?
Their 111-77 win means the Warriors have started their season 16-0. They broke the record set by the Houston Rockets of 93-04 and Washington Capitols of 1948-49, who previously held the record to the best start of the NBA season with 15-0. With their win today at Lakers, the Oracle Arena was sent into raptures.
Last season, the Warriors finished the regular season 67-15, having been 14-2 after 16 games last time. They bought the 4th NBA trophy to the Bay Area and for the first time in 40 years. The expectations from the fans and pundits alike, are for them to replicate this success.
It’s hard to replicate such lofty standards that have been set. The Warriors and Western Conference rivals, Los Angeles Clippers entered into a war of words during the pre-season, when the Clippers suggested that the Warriors were lucky, and did not face a top quality team.
Well, all doubts seem to be cast aside. Led by Curry, the Warriors set the best start for any franchise in NBA history. Even more notable is that two of their victories came against the Clippers (they will face them two more times), and they even recorded a 50 point blowout win over Memphis Grizzlies, a team noted for its tough defense.
The first 4 wins saw the Warriors outscore their opponents by 100 points in those games, setting another NBA record (beating the record set by legendary Celtic dynasty of the 60s, who won their first four games and outscored their opponents by 99 points). So it’s obvious that luck is not the only factor, if it even plays a role and they are even better than before.
What have they done to improve?
Firstly, the Warriors management have kept the core team intact. However, bench players were traded to improve the depth of the second unit, with All-star Forward, David Lee (who was on the Bench most of last season) traded with Boston for Gerald Wallace and Chris Bab. Wallace was subsequently traded to Philadelphia for Jason Thompson and cash. They also released Justin Holiday. Importantly, they signed Draymond Green to a 5 year, $85 million deal, which is paying off, as he is now an integral part of the Warriors first unit.
Secondly, the Warriors have began the season without coach Kerr who is recovering from multiple back surgeries (they expect him to return around the time of the All-Star break in February). Luke Walton is the interim coach, and while Kerr helps during the training sessions, Walton is making the calls during matches, indicative of his ability as a coach, as well as the influence of Kerr behind the scenes.
Thirdly, it’s the players themselves who have stepped up in the game. Not only did they have a long post-season, they worked out during the off-season to improve their fitness levels. The hard work has paid off. Steph Curry has become an even more lethal shooter, especially for 3 pointers, making around five a game, on 11 attempts. His field goal accuracy has also gone up to 50%. Draymond Green, who got a nice contract is proving to be an all-round player, with around 12 points, 7 rebounds 6 assists and 1 steal a game. Andre Iguodala has also improved. This is in spite of Klay Thompson and Andrew Bogut, who have also been in good form (despite suffering a few minor injuries so far).
The Warriors second unit, led by Speights, Ezili, and Livingstone are also pulling their weight, providing points and assists at regular intervals. They are able to capitalize on the good work of the first unit, controlling the game as the starters rest entire 4th quarters of the match. This goes a long way in keeping the team fresh.
Fourthly, and the most important factor is that the Warriors are determined to win again. They have enjoyed the celebrations of winning the title but it has not gone to their head. They are not over confident, they all are working together, on the court. This is seen by the fact the Warriors are the highest scoring team, with the highest field goal accuracy and have nearly 30 assists a game. They are passing the ball, exploring the possibilities for the best shot at the basket, involving each other.
So is it a case of luck with the Warriors? No.
They have worked for their record start and do not look like they can be stopped, at least not yet. If the Warriors can maintain a good form throughout, they might become the first team to do so, since Michael Jordan led Chicago to a 72-10 NBA Regular season record (till date, the only team to win 70+ regular season games), and establish a new dynasty for the Bay Area.