When the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors began this season, there were some questions posed about their chances of repeating. For starters, how would the team fair without their head coach Steve Kerr who is still out because of back surgery he had this off-season? How much better can the likes of Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes and Fetus Ezeli get and could they dynamic backcourt of Stephen Curry, last season’s MVP and Klay Thompson, a.k.a. “The Splash Brothers,” continue to play at a high level? The team has answered those questions in a big way by winning each game that they have played and on Tuesday night against an inferior opponent, they made NBA history.
There 111-77 victory over the struggling Los Angeles Lakers (2-12) on national television, the defending champs won their 16th consecutive game to start the 2015-16 season, setting a new franchise record. The previous mark of 15-0 had been held by the 1948-49 Washington Capitols, who went 38-22 that season and the 1993-94 World Champion Houston Rockets, who a franchise record 58 games in the regular season.
“Pretty cool accomplishment to start the season 16-0 and to do something that’s never been done in NBA history,” Curry, who had 24 points on 10 for 21 shooting, nine assists and two steals said after the game to NBA on TNT’s Kristen Ledlow.
“A lot of season left, but were on the right track.”
Along with making league history, the Warriors made team history by winning their 27th straight game at Oracle Arena. Their last setback at home was on Jan. 27, a 113-111 overtime setback to the Chicago Bulls (9-4), who they defeated last Friday at home 106-94 to improve their record to 14-0.
The Warriors also made history in scoring over 100 points for the 43rd time in succession at home, which is the longest streak since the 1990-91 Denver Nuggets and this was the also the 16th game this season that the Warriors have scored over 100 points.
While the Warriors have gotten to this incredible point early on in the season with a high octane offense, that is No. 1 in the league in points scored per game at 114.3; field goal percentage at 48.7; assists per contest at 29.6; three-pointer made per game at 12.4 and is second in NBA in three-point percentage at 41.0 percent, it has been what they have done at the defensive end, particularly this season that has them seriously in the conversation of repeating as champions.
They are 10th in “The Association” in points allowed at 98.7; ninth in rebounds per contest at 45.5; tied for fourth with the San Antonio Spurs (11-3) in opponent’s field goal percentage surrendering just 42.4 percent and they lead the league in opponent’s three-point percentage allowed giving up just 28.8 percent to this point. They are ranked fifth in block shots per contest at 6.3 and steals per game at 9.4 and eighth in forcing turnovers at 15.6.
In their record setting win against the Lakers this past Tuesday night, the Lakers shot just 37.8 percent from the field; made just three three-point field goals in 20 attempts; out-rebounded them 48-44; recorded nine steals and six block shots.
To put the difference in the direction of these two teams into perspective, the Warriors had 32 assists, doubling the Lakers, who had just 16.
Early in the game when the Lakers recorded their first assists, the Warriors already had 11 dimes at that point.
“It’s amazing. To set a record like this, you’re talking about NBA history, all-times. There’s been some great players, great teams to come through this league and to set a record for most wins to start a season it shows our focus level. It show the growth of this team. The growth of this organization. It’s pretty amazing,” Green, who had 12 of his 18 points in the first quarter said to ESPN’s Marc Stein after the game on Tuesday night. The former second round pick out of Michigan State also had seven rebounds, five assists and two block shots.
The biggest growth has come from the reigning MVP himself in Curry, who is leading the NBA in scoring per game at 32.1, but is averaging a career-high of 5.1 rebounds per game to go along with 5.9 assists per contest and is shooting a career-high 51.2 percent from the floor early into this season. He showed all of it in the team’s home opener against the New Orleans Pelicans back on Oct. 28, when he scored 24 of his game-high 40 points in the first quarter as the Warriors to down the Pelicans (3-11) again 111-95, beating the Hornets for the fifth straight time dating back to their Quarterfinals series a year ago in which the eventual champs swept New Orleans 4-0. Curry, who shot 14 for 26 from the field, including 5 for 12 from three-point territory and 7 for 7 from the foul line had six boards, seven assists and two steals.
When the Warriors met the Pelicans again in their house, the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, LA, Curry was remarkable again scoring 28 of his game-high 53 points in the third quarter as the Warriors knocked off the Pelicans again 134-120.
Not only did the reigning MVP go 10 for 13 from the floor in the third quarter, including 5 for 7 from three-point range, he outscored the Pelicans team by two points (28-26) in the third quarter. Curry finished 17 for 27 from the field, including going 8 for 14 from three-point range in the third period and 11 for 11 from the charity stripe, while also recording nine assists and four steals.
To put this great start by Curry into perspective, he has scored 30 points or more five times; 40 points or more four times and has scored under 20 points just once when he had 19 points, but had seven assists, four boards and three steals as the Warriors won at the Denver Nuggets (6-9) 118-105 this past Sunday night to tie the Rockets and Capitols for best starts to a season in NBA history at 15-0.
The dominance of Curry has masked the somewhat inconsistent play of his fellow back court mate in Thompson (16.2 ppg, 43.6 FG%, 39.8 3-Pt.%).
As mentioned earlier, he is not the only reason that the team is off to this historic great start. The aforementioned Green (12.7 ppg, 7.8 rpg-Leads team), who has become the heart and soul of the defending champions has improved his scoring by one point from a season ago, his 10th in the league in assists per contest at 6.6 and is having a career-year shooting wise at 48.4 percent from the floor and 43.5 percent from three-point range.
On many occasions this season, Green came close to a triple-double and recorded one with 16 points, 10 rebounds and tied a career-high with 12 assists to go along with four blocks and two steals in the team 107-99 overtime win versus the Brooklyn Nets (3-11) back on Nov. 14.
After a solid rookie season four years back, starting forward Harrison Barnes regressed in year two shooting just 39.9 percent from the field. Last season, the No. 7 overall pick in 2012 draft out of North Carolina bounced back scoring 10.1 points and grabbing 5.5 boards per contest while shooting 48.2 percent from the floor and 40.5 percent from three-point range. This season, he has taken off scoring wise averaging a career-high of 13.8 points per contest on a career-best 49.7 percent from the field, an amazing 39.6 percent from three-point range, a stellar 88.4 percent from the charity stripe and getting 4.9 boards per contest.
Along with the greatness of Curry, Green and Barnes, the Warriors have gotten steady play from Finals MVP in swingman Andre Iguodala (9.1 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 4.2 apg); guards Leandro Barbosa and Shaun Livingston and backup center Festus Ezeli, who is having a break out season of his own averaging 8.1 points, 5.9 boards and 1.6 blocks per contest.
The progress of the 30th overall pick in the aforementioned 2012 draft has been a big help, especially when starting center Andrew Bogut (7.1 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 1.7 bpg-Leads team) missed six games in this early stretch because of a concussion. Ezeli’s growth has given the Warriors a solid rotation in the pivot position.
The play of the Warriors has also exemplified the influence of Kerr even though he has not been present on the floor with them. Interim head coach Luke Walton has kept this team on track by being himself and continuing to harp on the principles that helped the Warriors capture the organization’s first title in four decades a season ago.
They play on both ends of the court with purpose and focus. They pass the basketball to where they trade a good shot attempt for a great shot attempt. They only care about winning the game as a team and not as individuals and that they respect each other and that everyone from the stars in Curry, Barnes and Thompson to role players Barbosa, Livingston and to guys not getting much time in games now like Marreese Speights, Ian Clark, Brandon Rush, Jason Thompson and James Michael McAdoo has a role to play.
As far as how long this team can go undefeated, it can go as long as they want it to go. With that being said this team will not win 70 games this season, like the 1995-96 World Champion Chicago Bulls, who won 72 games that season. For starters they have yet to play the Spurs, who they will play three times this season, all in 2016 or the defending East champion Cleveland Cavaliers (11-3), who they will host on Christmas Day on ABC. More than anything else, the Warriors are the defending champs and to the rest of the league, they are their big game on the schedule.
At the end of the day, what the defending champion Golden State Warriors have done has been incredible. They have shown the importance of team chemistry, the value of doing the unglamorous things in order to achieve victory and more than anything they are not satisfied with just one title. They want another and their play has shown they will not give up their crown very easily.
Information, statistics and quotations are courtesy of 11/1/15 2 a.m. edition NBATV’s “Gametime” with Matt Winer, Grant Hill and Rick Fox, report from Craig Sager; 11/24/15 NBA on TNT contest Los Angeles Lakers vs. Golden State Warriors with commentators Marv Albert, Grant Hill and sideline reporter Kristen Ledlow; 11/25/15 1 a.m. edition of “NBA Tonight” on ESPN 2 with Cassidy Hubbarth and Tim Legler; www.espn.go.com/nba/teams/schedule/statistics_/name/gs/golden-state-warriors; www.espm.go.com/nba/standings; www.espn.go.com/nba/statistics; http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List _of_Houston_Rockets_seasons; http://en.m.wikpedia.org/wiki/Washington_Capitols#Season-by-season_records.