Oh, the Warriors are fine.
Since losing five games in seven games that had everyone in a panic, they’ve rebounded to win nine straight outings. (The turning point must have been Klay Thompson signing a toaster.) On Wednesday, Golden State basically spotted the Spurs the first quarter and a 22-point lead, before roaring back in one of the most dominant showings we’ve seen from them in months.
The two team’s last meeting had been the flashpoint for a league-wide talking point, after the top players on each side sat due to rest and injury. The NBA hated it, wanting their product shown at its best on national television. While it wasn’t an overtime thriller, that happened on Wednesday. It just wasn’t an equal distribution of wealth — for a quarter and a half or so, the Spurs were at their best. For the rest of it, Golden State took over.
The loss will almost certainly keep San Antonio from the overall No. 1 seed, something that briefly appeared to be in reach after Golden State’s brief burnout and the Spurs walloping them in that now notorious rest game. But as quickly as the Spurs have drawn close, they’ve fallen back off — and this game was the death knell. With seven games remaining, Golden State has a two-game cushion, even if the Spurs are perfect. (If they’re not, the Warriors have even more flexibility.)
Who knows why it took so long for Golden State to heat up, but they did. It took more than four minutes for the Warriors to score, and at one point, they were 1-of-11 shooting the basketball for five turnovers. Well, the rest of the game, the Warriors shot 42-of-73 (58 percent).
It wasn’t a peak Golden State performance, and that’s somewhat scary. Obviously, Kevin Durant remains out, with the latest news predicting a return during the team’s final three home games. Draymond Green was miserable, especially early on but barely improving after that. He finished with four points on four field goal attempts, with four assists stacked up against seven turnovers.
But the rest of the Warriors were enough on Wednesday. Stephen Curry had 29 points while Klay Thompson heated up late for 23 of his own. Golden State’s bench may be ragtag, and you can never really know what to expect from them, but they came alive on Wednesday, too. David West had his best game in a Warriors uniform, setting season highs with 22 minutes and 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting. West has been a steady part of the rotation of late, but he was also mothballed for a stretch earlier this year. His emergence can mean nothing but good things for the Warriors.
Andre Iguodala came alive for 14 crucial points, too. Many of his came in the first half, keeping the game close and refusing to let San Antonio run away with it. They didn’t, thanks to his efforts, and the Warriors firmly closed out the game in the second half.
It feels like we’ve been viewing the Warriors more existentially with each passing week, but those times are over. Oh that’s right. Golden State is still a deadly basketball machine built to truck your favorite team. Oh, guess what. They’ve won nine straight and looked like this without Kevin Durant, whose return is likely imminent.
If for even a moment, you wondered if the Warriors could still flip the switch, they can. We just saw it.
Around the rest of the league
- Russell Westbrook did his whole “oh hey look I deserve the MVP” thing again, with a 57-point triple-double and 19 points in the final seven minutes to help the Thunder win a basketball game against Orlando. Yes, that’s a FIFTY-SEVEN point triple-double. Yes, HERE’S the game-tying three-pointer he hit with seconds left in the fourth quarter.
(Reminder: Westbrook literally did this last game, too, scoring 12 points in the final 3:30 for a nearly impossible comeback vs. Dallas. I wrote about it here.)
- I’m curious to see how James Harden responds in his final game against the Warriors on Friday, which is a nationally televised affair. I still think Harden has the tiniest bit of an edge for me in the MVP race, but one thing he’s lacking is clear “MVP moments.” Why we need MVP moments is a bit silly, since the only thing that should matter is a player’s front-to-back performance throughout a season. But here we are, and that’s why Kawhi Leonard earned so much buzz for his go-ahead three plus game-saving block against Houston earlier this month. Harden has been terrible in three games against Golden State, but maybe something on Friday can allow him to show how good his season has been.
- Then again, it’s not like Westbrook has been good going up against Golden State, either, so this is probably unfair. Just like it’s unfair to look at Westbrook’s absurd fourth-quarter comebacks, when Harden has the Rockets playing well enough that they don’t need many absurd fourth quarter comebacks. And here’s the impossible dilemma of the MVP race, and why teammates inevitably impact each player’s candidacy.
- The impossible to understand Clippers won again, this time a high-scoring affair against Washington that featured 41 points from John Wall in a loss. Four Clippers scored 23 points or more.
Wednesday’s final scores
Pelicans 121, Mavericks 118 (The Bird Writes recap | Mavs Moneyball recap)
Hawks 99, 76ers 92 (Peachtree Hoops recap | Liberty Ballers recap)
Thunder 114, Magic 106 (OT) (Welcome to Loud City recap | Orlando Pinstriped Post recap)
Bucks 103, Celtics 100 (Brew Hoop recap | Celtics Blog recap)
Hornets 110, Raptors 106 (At the Hive recap | Raptors HQ recap)
Heat 105, Knicks 88 (Hot Hot Hoops recap | Posting & Toasting recap)
Grizzlies 110, Pacers 97 (Grizzly Bear Blues recap | Indy Cornrows recap)
Warriors 110, Spurs 98 (Golden State of Mind recap | Pounding the Rock recap)
Clippers 133, Wizards 124 (Clips Nation recap | Bullets Forever recap)
Jazz 112, Kings 82 (SLC Dunk recap | Sactown Royalty recap)