Stranger things, as it turns out, have not happened.
A raucous crowd at Oracle Arena eager to witness something nobody's ever seen before wound up watching something that's now become very familiar — the Golden State Warriors utterly dominating from the opening tip against a woefully overmatched and outgunned opponent. The Warriors pulverized the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night, scoring a 111-77 victory that improved them to 16-0, displacing the 1948-49 Washington Capitols and the 1993-94 Houston Rockets to take sole possession of the record for the best start to a season in NBA history.
"There's no championship hangover for us," Warriors star Stephen Curry told TNT's Kristen Ledlow after the game. "We're trying to get better. We're focused. We're staying in the moment, so we feel like if we come ready to play every single night, we should be in good shape. We obviously know there's 66 games left, but we've taken care of every objective so far. We've got to keep it going."
The NBA's reigning Most Valuable Player once again led the way with 24 points on 10-for-21 shooting with nine assists, four rebounds and two steals in 30 minutes of playing time in the win, Golden State's franchise-record 27th straight within the friendly confines of Oracle. Playmaking power forward Draymond Green continued his star-turn-cementing season with 18 points on 7-for-11 shooting, seven rebounds, five assists, two blocked shots and a steal in 30 minutes.
While the rout everyone anticipated didn't materialize quite as quickly as many expected after Curry fed Green for a 3-pointer 16 seconds into the contest ...
It's over.— Got 'Em Coach (@GotEm_Coach) November 25, 2015
ok we're done— ☕netw3rk (@netw3rk) November 25, 2015
... the Warriors never trailed, and the Lakers — who now sit at 2-12, the second-worst record in the NBA, ahead of only the winless Philadelphia 76ers — never looked like they believed they had a prayer.
Even with Golden State opening up by looking, perhaps, a bit tight in its pursuit of history — the Warriors missed five of their first six shots and made a couple of errant passes as the great machine began to warm up — a sense of inevitability hung in the air. Byron Scott and his charges looked as if they knew they were drawing dead against an opponent orders of magnitude above anything they could conceivably handle, making L.A.'s customary brand of offensive dysfunction and aimlessness seem even more desperate.
The Warriors had missed a slew of wide-open shots and still led by nine with just over five minutes to play in the first quarter. Then ex-Laker/interim head coach Luke Walton removed center Andrew Bogut and inserted swingman Andre Iguodala, turning to his deadliest lineup to put L.A. out of its misery. A 9-2 run promptly followed, putting Golden State up 16 before Walton called off that particular unit of hellhounds by sending in Festus Ezeli and Shaun Livingston for Harrison Barnes and Klay Thompson. Even with Thompson missing all seven of his shots in the first quarter and Curry opening 3-for-8, the Warriors led 30-11 after 12 minutes, rendering the remainder of the game ostensibly unnecessary.
This game never should have been televised. Or even played.— Robert H (@bandwagonknick) November 25, 2015
Well, perhaps that's being a bit unkind. The Lakers showed some fight in the second quarter, taking advantage of the Warriors downshifting a bit defensively and getting sloppy with the ball. They knocked three points off the lead before halftime thanks to seven points off Golden State turnovers and some microwave work by L.A. guard Lou Williams, who scored all 10 of his points in the second.
As has been the case so many times during this remarkable two-season run, though, the Warriors came out of intermission intent on removing all doubt.
After opening up the third quarter with a pair of alley-oops for Bogut dunks over the top of the Lakers' hapless interior defense, Curry got himself going, scoring 14 points in just under nine minutes to fuel a 29-11 blitz that inflated the lead to 32. Walton subbed Curry out with 6.5 seconds left in the third, his job done, marking yet another night during which the MVP proved his worth not by coming through with fourth-quarter daggers, but rather by taking care of business so early that none were necessary.
[Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball]
Warriors: 167 minutes this season leading by at least 15 points Warriors: 149 minutes trailing by any margin— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 25, 2015
Golden State finished with 32 assists on 45 made field goals against just eight turnovers, getting absolutely whatever it wanted against a comically porous Laker defense, and 12 of 13 Dubs to suit up got on the scoreboard. (Better luck next time, Ian Clark.) As the Warriors continued to brilliantly meld a singular individual scoring talent with a broader team-wide commitment to sharing the ball, though, the Lakers continued to work the other side of the street, racking up only seven assists on 21 makes through the first three quarters before getting a bit of flow going in an entire fourth quarter's worth of garbage time.
The persistent struggle once again found expression in the form of Kobe Bryant, a legend laid low by time and injuries and mileage, who made just one of his 14 field-goal attempts, matching the worst shooting performance of his two-decade career.
Kobe Bryant: 12 straight games scoring fewer than 25 points while shooting less than 50% from field, longest such streak of his career.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 25, 2015
After spending the night struggling to generate anything of value against defenders like Barnes and Iguodala, Bryant came away thinking there might be some ways L.A. could get him going:
Kobe said he needs help so he can get easier looks— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) November 25, 2015
Kobe on his shots: "I got to do a better job demanding some help off the ball & get some easier chances, pindowns, picks, catch and shoots."— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) November 25, 2015
It seems that not everybody shares that same belief, however:
.@LAIreland asked Nick Young what LAL can do better, his response: “We can’t let one guy determine everything. We have to play as a team"— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) November 25, 2015
Nick Young continued: "It can’t be like a video game & you’re playing w/ your favorite player, you know? We’ve all got to share the ball.”— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) November 25, 2015
Several Warriors players were shocked at how far Kobe has fallen. Lots of respect for him in Dubs locker room. They grew up on Black Mamba— Marcus Thompson (@ThompsonScribe) November 25, 2015
It remains to be seen where a Lakers team that looks to have precious few answers under Scott's direction goes from here.
Interestingly, there's a bit of uncertainty surrounding the Warriors coming out of Tuesday's contest, too. While Golden State seems poised to push this record-setting start even further out of reach, interim head coach Walton might just be deciding that season-goal discretion is the better part of immortality-seeking valor:
Luke Walton said he about to start resting players— Marcus Thompson (@ThompsonScribe) November 25, 2015
It's an approach that served the Warriors well during the 2014-15 campaign. Head coach Steve Kerr's decision to borrow from former coach Gregg Popovich by giving key players nights off when their workloads were getting too heavy helped keep Golden State's entire rotation healthy, viable and performing at peak levels throughout a championship run that saw many purported rivals waylaid by critical injuries.
Having your pivotal pieces healthy come April, May and June is the goal; you need everybody to win four playoff rounds against competition as stiff as what the Dubs are likely to face. But while last year's Warriors were playing to establish themselves as an elite, championship-level team, this year's club has a real shot to eliminate any argument that they're not one of the best teams any of us have ever seen — and, for now, a real shot at the holy grail of NBA team success: the single-season record of 72 wins held by the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls.
There's a selfish part of me that wants to tell Walton he shouldn't rest anybody until the Warriors actually lose a couple of games — that he should keep his eyes on the prize until the math tilts against him, and he can resume bothering with such low-level considerations as winning Golden State's second straight freaking NBA championship. But then I think back on what I've watched over the last 119 games — of which Golden State has won 99 — and I get it: if Walton waits for a couple of teams to beat these Warriors before he does what he thinks is right, he might be waiting a really, really long time.
- - - - - - -