Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Unnatural Confidence of the Warriors

Shooter is a wee bit open
Tonight in Atlanta, Golden State ran off to their usual huge lead. The confetti buckets were firing, the LOL ball movement was at full speed, and Atlanta looked as helpless as, well, every other team in the Association has more or less looked against the Dubs this year. And then everything changed, with Dennis Schroeder and Al Horford both playing nearly their best games of the year, and it got contagious. The home team started making threes, the road team, missing them, and a 23-point lead eventually evaporated. Atlanta took a four point lead in the early part of the fourth quarter as Thabo Sefalosha hit the corner three, and Atlanta's telecast team was openly talking about how this win might turn their whole season around.

Golden State seemed mildly concerned.

But I was probably reading too much into it.

Klay Thompson's answer three stopped the run. Atlanta's benchies ran out of gas. Shaun Livingston did his usual I'm Taller And Disturbingly Good mid-range game. Thompson stuck another three, and Andrew Bogut made block after block on penetration. By the time Stephen Curry made his of course make from the corner just after the five minute mark, Golden State was back up seven, and would never trail again. Another 10-point win, with the won-loss record moving to 50-5 -- just the best in the history of the Association -- and, um, yeah.

With the exception of Kyle Korver, who really looks like he's playing with a fork in his back, Golden State took Atlanta's best shot tonight. Horford went 23-16-6, and even had three steals and five blocks, and it just didn't matter. PGs Jeff Teague and Schroeder combined for 34-3-12, which means they damn near equaled Curry, and it just didn't matter. Mostly because the Dub defense made Paul Milsap disappear, with Draymond Green going 6-14-9 with his usual insane versatility, and, well, Dubs.

With 27 games left in the regular season and the team potentially getting stronger with Anderson Varejao joining the bench, I guess there's still suspense about them getting to 73 wins and setting a new record... but honestly, that's "just" 19-4, a winning percentage of .826, as opposed to their current .909. The Florida 2-step of Miami/Orlando is next, then the suddenly reeling Thunder, before coming back to the Bay Area for Atlanta, OKC, a lay up in Lakerland, then back home for six home games, all of them against borderline or strong lottery teams. It's really possible that they are something like 66-6 before the 3-game road trip to Dallas, San Antonio and Minnesota that's likely the Association's last and best chance to make protecting history a matter of suspense.

Even the freakishly talented Spurs are probably not going to put up much of an effort to stop this. Two of the last four games of the year are a home and home with Popovich's men, and that team has been known to rest for games that the rest of the world wants to consider important. But the more important point is just how many ways this team beats you. Guard Curry one on one, and he ends you. Double him, and a roster of knock down shooters has clean looks all night long. Deny Curry the ball, and Green takes over primary ball handling and racks up a triple-double against your big that can't stay with him. Somehow take these two elements away, and you then get to hope that the reigning three-point champion isn't hitting his inevitably open looks, or that Livingston and the bench mob doesn't run away with the game. And all of that presumes that you're scoring enough against one of the best defensive teams in the league, and a club that's just loaded with long athletes that contest everything. You pretty much have to play perfect, and they pretty much have to be having an off night. Good luck with that as a game plan.

I have no idea how you beat this team, and no one else does, either. If they weren't fantastic to watch, I'd resent them for making so much of the season suspense-free. And you have to think that OKC might get things together, or the Spurs will give them a series, or the recent Clipper comeback late augers something, or the Cavs are freshly energized and dangerous after their coaching game and Kevin Love rehabilitation...

Or maybe this is just one of the best teams in the history of the Association, and what you see with your eyes and the numbers is what's just going to keep happening.

Seven weeks to go. Seven more weeks for teams to try to figure out how to stop the unstoppable, or derail the best season ever. I'm watching because it's historic and beautiful, and because I have no dog in the fight against them. And I can't understand why everyone else isn't watching them, too.

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