We’ve witnessed an interesting dynamic surrounding the Golden State Warriors since the signing of Kevin Durant this past summer.
Immediately after the signing, many people hyperventilated that the Dubs might go 82-0, win everything in sight–not just the NBA title, but maybe the Super Bowl, Stanley Cup, and the Pillsbury Bake-Off, too–and go down as the greatest team in the history of history.
Then came the backlash. Supposedly cooler heads warned that the Warriors would need time to gel, might struggle out of the gate, and, indeed, it might not actually work out at all. Too many shooters, not enough size, the departed will be missed, etc. etc. etc.
So–what does tonight’s Warriors game against the Boston Celtics tell us, in light of these opposing viewpoints? From here it looks like the hyperventilators, if they weren’t entirely right, they were at least closer to the mark than the skeptics. The rest of the NBA should be very worried.
The Dubs game in Boston is a very telling benchmark for what’s going on with the team, mostly because of what happened last year when Steve Kerr’s crew sailed into TD Garden.
As you no doubt remember, the Warriors capped off their 24-0 season start with a double overtime win against the Celtics. It was one of the best games of last season, and it saw the Warriors barely eke out a win against John Stevens’ up and coming squad–a tough battle that set up a loss the next night in Milwaukee that ended Golden State’s record start to the regular season.
And here we are, not quite a year later, and the Warriors are playing the same back-to-back games on their current road trip. And this time, they pasted Boston. Don’t be fooled–the game wasn’t as close as the 104-88 final score. (Some fool on ESPN’s post-game show was harping about the Warriors letting the Celtics back into the game, but it was just typical Connecticut Clown College blather; the Warriors played at half speed the last quarter of the game, largely because of tomorrow night’s game against the Bucks.)
Tonight’s result serves as a good yardstick because this year’s Celtics team is pretty much the same as last year’s Celtics team. Some will argue about Boston missing Al Horford (out with an injury), but I don’t see his absence being in any way definitive. Also, if you check the record, the Celtics had an almost identical record at this time last season as they do now. It’s pretty much the same team, in the same place…and they got stomped. No overtime necessary tonight.
This clearly indicates the difference between last year’s Warriors and new Durant-infused model for this season: last year’s team started off great and then spent the rest of the season exerting the effort to maintain their original brilliance. They almost did it, going all the way to the fifth game of the Finals before the slippage hit in a major way. In contrast, this season’s team started somewhere a little below that, and is now approaching greatness–and they’re undoubtedly going to get better as the season goes along (barring major injury, of course).
All of that means continued steady improvement in how this team’s moving parts mesh together; growing confidence in the new players moving into the rotation (Patrick McCaw in particular looks like a real player); and a good chance of moving into the post-season with a ton of momentum, unlike last year’s team (which lost a couple of winnable home games towards the end of the season, then had a herky-jerky playoff run all the way to the Finals).
So it turns out that, yes, rich is better than poor, water is wet, the sun does rise in the east…and getting all the best players does make you the best team after all. The rest of the Association may just be playing for second place.
And the Bucks, who ended the Warriors’ streak last season, had better be ready for a big-time blitz on Saturday night.