The Golden State Warriors continued their remarkable run which began with last year’s 67-15 record in the regular season and 16-5 dash through the playoffs en route to their first championship since the 1973-1974 campaign.
With last night’s 111-77 drubbing of the Los Angeles Lakers, they became the first squad in league history to rip off 16 consecutive victories to begin a season.
The last team to start a season 15-0 was the 1993-1994 Houston Rockets, who went on the defeat the New York Knicks in the NBA Finals.
Let’s take a moment to sit back and think about the simple concept of this Golden State team getting off to the best start ever in the illustrious history of the NBA. Name any great squad in the annals of the game, from Jordan’s Bulls to Magic’s Lakers to Bird’s Celtics to Doc’s and Moses’ 76’ers to Bill Russell’s Celtics.
None of them ever got out the gate this fast, this strong.
I began telling people last year, when they got off to a 21-2 start, that the Warriors were on the path to being considered an all-time great squad, and was ridiculed by many an imbecile masquerading as a basketball pundit. My point of emphasis in that debate was that the only teams I’ve seen with that type of precise ball movement and offensive execution, who shared the rock with such competence was the 2013-14 Spurs, the 1985-86 Celtics, the 1986-87 Lakers and the 1995-96 Bulls.
And the burgeoning legend and remarkable skills of Steph Curry - who is displaying an amalgam of the offensive brilliance that Pistol Pete Maravich and Mahmoud Abdul Rauf, the artist formerly known as Chris Jackson, once paraded on the college stage at LSU - is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.
There are still some fools out there saying that the Warriors are not that good, that their excellence is a reflection of how bad the state of the current NBA is, that they’re just a team of jump-shooters in an era with no dominant big man, that they got lucky last year, that had they played in the great era of the Celtics and Lakers in the ‘80s or Michael’s ‘90s they’d stand no chance, blah blah blah blah.
This line of reasoning is parallel to the same dummies who scoffed at laying out the initial Netflix venture capital, on some, “The market is saturated, Blockbuster has it on lock. Who wants to wait for a movie in the mail when they can simply ride over to the video store and pick one up.”
In case you’re still in shock at what’s happening in Golden State, wake up! You’re watching one of the greatest teams in the history of the league.
Last year, they finished with a combined overall record of 83-20 in the regular season and playoffs. That was the third-highest win total in NBA history. Now, they are a legitimate challenger to the 72-10, 1995-96 Chicago Bulls team that is widely considered, outside of the Dream Team, as the league’s best ever.
Those Bulls had the highest point differential (a stat that measures a team’s average margin of victory), +12.24, in the modern era. Only the 1971-1972 Lakers with Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West and the 1970-71 Milwaukee Bucks with Kareem Abdul Jabbar and the inimitable Oscar Roberston were comparable.
Last year’s Warriors became just the eighth team in NBA history to finish with a double-digit point differential at +10.10, while obliterating former franchise records in assists and three-pointers. No player ever connected on more three’s than Curry did last year, as the franchise became one of only ten teams to ever win at least 67 regular season games. They went 39-2 at Oracle Arena, the first Western Conference team to ever win that many home games, including streaks of 19-straight at home, 10-consecutive on the road and 16-straight overall, which they’ve now matched.
It seems illogical that they, and Curry individually, could have improved. But the scary thing for the rest of the league is that they have. Golden State’s current point differential is an astounding +15.6. That is exactly double the Cleveland Cavaliers’ number, which is +7.8.
To put that number in perspective, if the Warriors continue at this torrid pace (which they certainly won’t due to the grind of the NBA schedule which becomes more difficult for them heading into December but is fun to tinker with nevertheless), they will have the highest point differential ever known to mankind.
Ladies and gentlemen, what we’re witnessing is a historic chase. Believe it or not, if your curmudgeonly biases or lack of basketball comprehension happen to get in the way, this team has a chance, I repeat has a chance, to be the best of all time.
I know that sounds blasphemous, but last year’s squad was already one of the top five teams to ever win a championship. According to my breakdown, those squads are –
1995-96 Chicago Bulls – 72 wins, great offense, suffocating defense, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman and a stellar supporting cast, which included Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, who shot a mesmerizing 52% from the three-point line.
1986-87 Los Angeles Lakers – Showtime, best point guard ever in Magic, the league’s GOAT aka Kareem, Big Game James Worthy and the league’s best defender at the time, Michael Cooper
1996-1997 Chicago Bulls – What is ya, ignorant? This squad had a chain belt in Kung Fu! See above. There was talk early on of them possibly winning 75 games when they burst out of the gate with a 17-1 start to the season.
1985-86 Boston Celtics – League’s best offense and defense, Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Chief, one of the deepest frontcourts ever, two big guards in Ainge and DJ who could explode offensively while playing harassing defense. This squad was a rebounding machine.
2014-15 Golden State Warriors – Already explained earlier in the column. Laugh now if your basketball intellect is learning-disabled in the short-term, but 15 years later when you finally realize it, you’ll look back with nostalgia on one of the best point guards and teams in the history of the league.
This year’s edition of the Warriors is not simply winning, they’re beating teams like Iron Mike Tyson in his prime, before Robin Givens and her mother destroyed him. The trio of Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, as difficult as it is for some to wrap their brains around, has a chance to be right up there with the greatest we’ve ever seen, along with -
Sam Jones, Bill Russell and John Havlicek
Jordan, Pippen and Rodman
Magic, Kareem and Worthy
Bird, Parish and McHale
Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu
LeBron, Wade and Bosh
Isiah, Joe Dumars and Bill Laimbeer
Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett
I know these Warriors are just getting started in terms of assembling their resumes, but I already have them ranked above Golden State’s triumvirate of Chris Mullin, Tim Hardaway and Mitch Richmond and Detroit’s Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton and Ben Wallace.
Right now, they’re off to the most dominant start in the post-Jordan era.
As good as they were last year, that team can’t compare to how well this one is playing right now.
And the crux of their excellence is an emphasis on a passing attack that is more beautiful and breathtaking than Mookie manipulating those ice cubes over Tina's heavenly body in Do The Right Thing.
The ball movement, free-flowing improvisational offense and three-point shooting is truly unprecedented.
The last team to have accumulated a comparable number of assists through sixteen games are Magic Johnson’s aforementioned all-time great Showtime crews of the mid-‘80s.
The implausibly prodigious Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, George Gervin, Tracy McGrady, Kevin Durant, Bernard King, LeBron, Carmelo and Allen Iverson have had scoring binges similar to the one Curry is now on to start a season, but none of them have been as efficient.
And to those with an untrained eye, Golden State is just as vicious on the defensive end, employing units that can pressure the ball for a full 94 feet, block shots, rebound and switch on any and every screen. Their versatility, synergy and chemistry on both ends of the floor is staggering.
Enjoy this gift from the basketball gods as the season unfolds, because it truly doesn't come around very often.