Here's how Houston Rockets star James Harden referred to the Golden State Warriors before their matchup on Saturday night:
The clip of Harden telling his huddled-up teammates that the Warriors — who entered that contest with an NBA-best record of 31-6 — were "not that good, man," despite having already beaten Houston twice by double figures this season, was later deleted from the Rockets' Instagram account. Nothing's ever really gone on the Internet, though, even if the "Swag Champs" might have wished it would disappear after a third straight major loss to that "not that good" team.
Houston had a chance to bounce back from their troika of beatdowns on Wednesday, and ... well, it didn't go so hot:
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The firing-on-all-cylinders Warriors needed just under seven minutes to build a double-digit lead, which Golden State center Andrew Bogut punctuated by emphatically rejecting Houston star Dwight Howard at the rim, twice:
While Houston charged back to keep things tight for a while behind a steady stream of trips to the line and delivered dimes from Harden, the Rockets just had no answer once Golden State hit the gas just before the midpoint of the second quarter.
Steve Kerr's club ripped off a 20-3 run that spanned nearly 7 1/2 minutes, putting the clamps on Houston (just 1-for-12 shooting after a Dwight Howard dunk at the 7:26 mark) while cranking up their own ball movement and shotmaking (thanks in large part to Klay Thompson's 11 points in that stretch) to turn an in-the-balance contest into a 20-point blowout by halftime. The lead would balloon to 30 on a Draymond Green triple with 5 1/2 minutes left in the third, and the Dubs cracked the century mark with 50 seconds left in the frame.
A mid-fourth garbage-time run keyed by the likes of Alexey Shved, Corey Brewer, Joey Dorsey and Jason Terry — a surge that came after Josh Smith got ejected, because there's apparently no performance-enhancing drug greater than getting rid of Smoove these days — brought Thompson, Green and Stephen Curry back off Kerr's bench, but Houston drew no closer than nine. The result: a fourth straight double-digit defeat for the "Swag Champs" at the hands of the West's best team, who now stand at 34-6, winners of 17 straight at the rollicking Oracle Arena, with the last 10 home wins coming by at least 13 points. (Yeah, that's a record.)
Curry continued his MVP campaign with 22 points and 10 assists (albeit against six turnovers, which will cost him) in 34 minutes, boosting his season shooting marks above the fabled 50-40-90 line — 50.1 percent from the floor, 40.2 percent from 3-point land, 91.5 percent from the charity stripe — while also showing a bit more fire than we're accustomed to seeing from Dell's son after a third-quarter bump from Trevor Ariza:
Holding Curry back to keep him from getting in trouble — just another critical won't-show-up-in-the-box-score contribution from Draymond Green. Send that man to the All-Star Game!
The bad blood between these two teams stretches back two seasons, and as the Curry-Ariza brouhaha showed, it seems to reaching a new and rolling boil, perhaps sparked by Harden's recent pre-game denigration of the Dubs' talents. It's no surprise, then, that the Warriors seemed to particularly relish the victory that locked up a season sweep of Kevin McHale's squad, according to Diamond Leung of the Bay Area News Group:
Here is a transcript of a smiling [Draymond] Green, dripping with sarcasm after the game, in response to the [Harden] video:
Q: With the way you guys have been beating teams lately, do you think getting up by these big margins might have that effect on teams?
A: I mean, I’m sure they were a little frustrated because we’re not that good. So to get up by 20 like that in the half and then come out in the third quarter I’m sure is a little frustrating. But hey, we’re not that good. Shouldn’t be up by 20 at half. Happens though, right?
Q: What’d you think of that, ‘They’re not that good thing?’
A: Uh, [Harden's] right. We’re nowhere near where we’re going to be at the end of this year. We’ve got to continue to get better and stay healthy and then we’ll look back at this point in the season and say, ‘Man, we weren’t that good.’ So he’s right.
Green then turned to teammate Brandon Rush: We’re not that good. Well, you saw it. You got Twitter?
Rush: Yeah, I got Twitter.
Green: You got Instagram? Then you saw. We’re not that good…I guess we’re not that good…Yeah, you know if we’re not that good…Four losses to somebody ain’t that good. [...]
Q: Seventeen consecutive home wins is pretty good, stands alone in franchise history. What does that mean to you?
A: Seventeen in a row at home, that can’t be all this year can it be? It can’t be if we’re not that good.
Curry wasn't quite as demonstrative as his power forward, but he took the opportunity to enjoy himself, too, according to ESPN.com's Ethan Sherwood Strauss:
After the game, Curry was less sarcastic but equally pointed: "We showed we are pretty good, especially against them."
Well, there's no disputing that.
The Warriors averaged 115 points per game against the Rockets this year, shooting just under 50 percent from the floor as a team and a crisp 38.2 percent from 3-point land en route to their four-game sweep. Against the league at large, Houston's allowing just 99.5 points-per-100, marking them as the NBA's fourth-stingiest defense; against the Warriors this season, they gave up 109.6-per-100, which would slot them in just north of the circling-the-drain Minnesota Timberwolves, owners of the league's most permissive D.
No matter how you slice it, Golden State whipped the Rockets from pillar to post during the regular season, outscoring the Rockets by a whopping 13.8 points per 100 possessions, a simply monstrous number. Then again, it's not like the Warriors have singled out Houston specifically for this sort of beatdown. (Well, maybe they did on Wednesday night.) They're actually doing this to pretty much everybody.
Through 40 games, Golden State — owners of the NBA's third-best offense (110.2 points-per-100 scored) and top-of-the-pops defense (97 points-per-100 allowed) — has outscored its opposition by 13.2 points per 100 possessions. The No. 2 team in that "efficiency differential" stat, the Dallas Mavericks, is +7.8-per-100. NBA.com's stat tool has these sorts of advanced stats stretching back to the 1996-97 season; in that time, only four teams have finished a full season above +10-per-100 — the 2012-13 Oklahoma City Thunder (+11), the 2008-09 Cleveland Cavaliers: (+10.3), the 2007-08 Boston Celtics (+11.5) and the 1996-97 Chicago Bulls (+12). The Warriors, right now, are topping all of those teams. This, it is fair to say, is bonkers.
The statistical indicators that the Warriors might actually be an all-time great don't stop there, though. From SB Nation's Jesus Gomez:
The Warriors have an average margin of victory of +11.3 points points per game, well above the second-place Hawks, who come in a distant second with a +7.1 average. If that holds until the end of the season, the Warriors will become only the eighth team in history to finish with an average point differential of over 10.
The other seven teams? The 1970-71 and 1971-72 Bucks, the 1971-72 Lakers, the 1991-92, 1995-96 and 1996-97 Bulls and the 2007-08 Celtics. Six of those teams went on to win the championship; the only team that didn't was the 71-72 Bucks, who lost to the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals.
Looking like a world-class wrecking crew at the halfway point doesn't necessarily mean you're going to be hoisting the O'Brien in late June; just ask last year's Indiana Pacers. Nor, to be fair, does finishing the full season with a chart-topping differential — as Gomez notes, last year's San Antonio Spurs won the championship after leading the league in margin of victory, but the previous four differential leaders didn't, and while the '96-'97 Bulls and '07-'08 Celtics won it all after finishing +10 or better per-100, the '08-'09 Cavs and '12-'13 Thunder didn't. (Then again, lest we forget, that Thunder team lost Russell Westbrook just two games into the playoffs.) A lot can happen between now and the start of the playoffs; by springtime, the Warriors might look a lot more vulnerable than they do this Thursday.
Some folks, though, still seem to think the Warriors ain't all that right now. Take it away, Superman:
After the game, Howard was asked if the Warriors were the best team in the league. "I think the [Atlanta] Hawks are the best team," he said. "Think they got the best record, right?
Now, that's not technically true. The Warriors have a better winning percentage and lead the Hawks by two in the loss column.
Oh, well. It's like I always say, Dwight: Never let the facts get in the way of a good story, especially when said story might help in some small way soothe the pain of the butt-kicking you just received.
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