During a radio interview last week, I fielded the question that just about everybody who talks or writes about the NBA has been asked in recent weeks: So when the heck are the Golden State Warriors going to lose? My answer, I suspect, was the same as everyone else's — "I have no idea" — but I did wonder if they might find themselves in a bit of trouble on Friday against a Phoenix Suns team that's been scorching of late, ranking seventh in the NBA in points scored per possession over the past two weeks.
A road game in the desert, on the day after Thanksgiving, three days after becoming the new standard-bearers for excellence in starting a season, against a Phoenix franchise with a history of snapping long winning streaks and a present-day club with two super-potent scoring threats in Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight who might be able to make the Warriors' guards work on both ends of the floor. That could be a recipe for an L, right?
And yet, in my back-of-the-envelope calculations, I neglected one pretty important variable: The Suns would have to, y'know, outscore Stephen Curry and company.
The Warriors set a new NBA record by draining 15 3-pointers in the first half against an overmatched Phoenix defense en route to setting a new franchise high-water-mark with 22 triples in a 135-116 victory that improved Golden State to a perfect 17-0 on the season. Luke Walton's charges fell one long-distance bomb short of matching the 2008-09 Orlando Magic and 2012-13 Houston Rockets for the all-time single-game record of 23 triples.
The Suns didn't necessarily do themselves any favors with their coverages and effort on Friday.
"I think our guys have gotten to the point where they're just trying to score and not worrying about the other end and we've given up a lot of points during this stretch," coach Jeff Hornacek, whose club now ranks 21st in points allowed per possession, said after the game, according to Bryan Gibberman of ArizonaSports.com.
That said, though ... I mean, what the hell was Phoenix supposed to do against an attack this hot, this deep, this monstrous?
The Dubs have now won 21 consecutive games stretching back to last regular season, the fourth-longest streak in NBA history, and one shy of matching the 2007-08 Houston Rockets for third place all-time. They're also now the first team in American major professional sports history to notch 16-game winning streaks in consecutive seasons.
Curry continued his even-more-unbelievable encore to his Most Valuable Player-winning campaign. He torched Bledsoe, Knight, poor Ronnie Price and anyone else in his vicinity from the opening tip, pouring in 19 points in the first 12 minutes to set the tone for a beatdown that would never approach a fair fight:
Curry scored 41 points on 11-for-20 shooting, including a blistering 9-for-16 mark from 3-point range, to go with eight assists, six rebounds and two steals in just under 31 minutes of playing time. Curry had reached the 40-point mark nine times in 416 career regular-season games before this season. He's done it five times in 17 games in 2015-16. He's averaging a league-leading 32.6 points per game — nearly nine more points per contest, despite not even averaging two more minutes an outing — while shooting 51.4 percent from the field, 44.2 percent from 3-point range on an unheard-of 11.6 attempts a game, and 93.5 percent from the free-throw line.
He's borderline indescribable at this point, and his services, once again, were not required in the fourth quarter, as he'd staked Golden State to a 22-point lead after three periods. The role of Curry in the final frame instead went to veteran sparkplug Leandro Barbosa ... who promptly made all five of his shots, including three long-balls, to produce 13 of his season-high 21 points on 8-for-9 shooting to go with three rebounds, two assists and a block in 23 minutes.
Despite committing 18 turnovers leading to 20 Phoenix points through three quarters, and despite missing 10 free throws, Golden State never trailed, and led by as many as 26. That the Warriors continue to not only prosper amid their flaws, but flat-out dominate decent competition in the process is, well, scary, as ESPN.com's Ethan Sherwood Strauss writes:
Here's an illustration of what's terrifying about the 17-0 Warriors, aside from the fact they're 17-0. On Friday night, Golden State was torched on defense, ceding 116 points on 92 shots to the host Phoenix Suns. The Warriors were sloppy on offense, lousy with unforced errors, coughing it up 23 times. A bad game for them, in a few respects.
Still, they won by 19 [...] Golden State, despite all the "streak" questions, continues to focus on process. Interim coach Luke Walton said, "We turned the ball over too much, we still have to get better at that." Breakout All-Star candidate Draymond Green, who claimed a triple-double Friday, said, "I don't think our performance was great tonight. You can't let fool's gold fool you." [...]
If it's fool’s gold though, what glitters still has to make other teams shiver with woe.
It also puts the Warriors in position, and in the frame of mind, to hunt bigger game than merely ("merely!") a second straight championship. Golden State, led by its flamethrowing point guard, is not shying away from discussing the possibility of walking down the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers' all-time-record 33-game winning streak, according to Diamond Leung of the Bay Area News Group:
"We talk about 33," Curry said in a conference call with international reporters. "I think I've probably talked about it more than anybody else on the team, just because I know about the history and just really how hard it is.
"We've had like two 16-game winning streaks the last two years, and those are pretty special feats. For us to have to double that output, I mean we're going to play hard and hopefully close in on that record, but it won't be a disappointing effort if we don't get there. Because there are so many talented teams in this league and for us to just be playing at a high level right now, that's what we're worried about. And if we close in and get to 29, 30 games, we'll talk about it a little bit more." [...]
"Thirty-three is a special number," Curry said. "So there's obviously still milestones that we can continue to go after, but you go after them by how you approach each day."
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Thirty-three straight wins, 72-10, back-to-back titles ... there's plenty of history left for the Warriors to strive for, and a long way to go before they can get there. (The journey could become more difficult if they're without starting forward Harrison Barnes for an extended stretch after he left Friday's win with a sprained left ankle in the third quarter.) As they continue to chase legendary status, though, the Dubs seems committed to the process of crushing their opponents' dreams night by night. Step right up, Sacramento Kings.
"We have an edge," Curry said after Friday's win, according to Bob Baum of The Associated Press. "We love the feeling of winning and our confidence is high right now. That's the only thing that motivates us."
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