Golden State’s 122-116 win over the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday? This is an other story. All things considered, it was probably the most impressive win of the Warriors’ season.
For starters, Stephen Curry had his worst shooting game in recent memory (1 of 11 of 3). As a team, the Warriors shot just 11 for 40 of 3 (27.5%), while the Suns shot 43.2% (16 of 37).
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To defeat the team with the second best league record, a team that is playing near full strength (no Cam Johnson) and fighting for a very significant No.1 seed, on the second night of a back to back, when you lost the battle by 3 points by 15 and Curry couldn’t touch a boat’s water, send the clearest message as we head into the final week of the regular season and in the playoffs.
Warriors are dangerous.
It’s starting to feel a bit like the ‘We Believe’ Warriors, who as the No.8 seed were more talented than their seed, ran away down the home stretch and ended up winning. the Dallas Mavericks to 67 wins in the first round of the 2006-07 playoffs. This Warriors team has gone 15-5 in their last 20 games before the playoffs. If these Warriors win their last two games, they’ll end their last 20 games at… you guessed it… 15-5.
If the Warriors find themselves in the playoffs, whether as a No.7 or 8 seed, you’re going to start hearing a lot of those “We Believe” comparisons. But like Draymond Green underlined after Tuesday’s victory, there really is, and never will be, a comparison between these two iterations of Warriors basketball.
“We are not We Believe 2.0. We have —— Stephen Curry. “
That is true. This “We Believe” team were more talented than their seed would indicate, and Baron Davis was a monster. But Davis is not Curry, and “more talented than your seed” is not the same as having championship DNA. This 2006-07 team was an underdog through and through. When teams like Utah and Phoenix look down the sideline and see Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, and Steve Kerr across the scoring table, they don’t see an underdog. They see guys who’ve been somewhere they’re still trying to reach.
That’s more than anything they’ve shown in those two wins over Utah and Phoenix. There’s still that little extra to this Warriors squad, that thing that you can’t quite define but that you know when you see it. Call it guts. Solve. Combat. The heart of a champion. Call it whatever you like, but it’s a real thing, and the Warriors just might exploit it at the right time.
And it’s not just because they have curry. Yes, this is the main reason. Curry is arguably the best player in the world right now, and any time you have this guy on your team you’re dangerous.
But that’s when you combine Curry with a top five defense that peaks behind Green (who has once again become one of the league’s most influential defenders) and what starts to sound like a fairly legitimate second option in Andrew Wiggins ( who finished with 38 points and was all over the court against Phoenix), that you really have something to cook. It’s not the kind of team you want to play with in the first round as a No.1 or No.2 seed.
Golden State still has a long way to go to make the top eight. Following Tuesday’s win, he sits eighth in the West, tied for the loss column with the No.9 Grizzlies with the season series tied 1-1 and one game to go on the final day of the season. Unless Memphis loses back-to-back games against the Sacramento Kings on Thursday and Friday, that last game will be for the No.8 seed.
The No. 8 seed, of course, is the difference between having two chances of winning a play-in match and having to win two in a row as a No. 9. That’s a big deal. Either way, it won’t be easy to get out of the play-in tournament. That’s the beauty of this thing. It’s a legitimate win-or-come home drama. Everything can happen.
But let’s say the Warriors make it the # 7 or 8 seed. Who will they see in the first round? Either the Jazz or the Suns, in all likelihood – the two teams they just beat on two consecutive nights.
Again, the Jazz was not at full power on Monday. It wasn’t necessarily an indicator of how a potential Utah-Golden State series might play out. But the Warriors suddenly have a group of shooters sprawling across the floor and can play five-a-side Green, which theoretically drags Rudy Gobert out of the paint to some extent. Golden State’s defense is versatile and can change any Utah pick-and-roll. Golden State would have the best player in the series, which is not a bad starting point in the history of the gang.
If they were facing Phoenix, well, you just saw the Warriors beat the Suns on a night when Curry was freezing cold while running on steam. And when it’s hot? And the team is rested? The Suns are really good. But again, the Warriors would have the best player in this series on both ends of the floor.
Are any of these scenarios likely to unfold? We’ll see. It starts with getting the No. 8 seed on Memphis. This dramatically increases Golden State’s chances of making the top-eight. From there, as it stands, they would play the Lakers in the first play-in game. Obviously, that would be a difficult task, but it’s not set in stone either. Portland or Dallas could still end up in 7th place. There’s a bunch of basketball left. But the Warriors are playing as well as they’ve been all season, and they need to feel good about their chances.