The Golden State Warriors and Atlanta Hawks have been the class of the NBA regular season, with both squads well on their way to winning homecourt advantage before the NBA Finals. While Wednesday's matchup at Oracle Arena lacked two All-Stars in the injured Klay Thompson (out around a week with a sprained ankle) and Kyle Korver (out a few more days with a broken nose), the game stood out on the schedule as a potential title preview between two wildly impressive, 53-win teams enjoying something like ideal seasons. It had all the makings of a classic, just like the Hawks' win in Atlanta on February 6.
The reality was not as competitive as that prediction. The Warriors grabbed a minor lead through the first quarter and built on it late in the half, taking a 59-47 lead into halftime on the strength of quality outside shooting and their league-best defense. That margin got uglier in the third quarter as Golden State continued to take it to Atlanta with what continues to look like the most complete roster in the NBA. The biggest highlight came with 4:20 remaining in the period, when Stephen Curry whipped a nonchalant behind-the-back pass to Leandro Barbosa for an open corner 3:
The Warriors got the lead up to as many as 29 points in the fourth on their way to a 114-95 win that would have served as a statement to the rest of the league if they hadn't already blown out so many other teams this season. The NBA's best team is now 31-2 at home and 7 1/2 games up on the Memphis Grizzlies for the West's top seed with only 15 left to play.
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However, what made Wednesday's victory amazing wasn't just the margin, but the way in which the Warriors dispatched the Hawks. It was downright fun, full of dunks and 3-pointers in front of a raucous home crowd. This team has attitude visible not only in highlights — Curry followed up his assist in the video above by jawing at Dennis Schröder after he called a timeout at the other end. The party atmosphere reached its peak on the final play of the third quarter, when Barbosa tried to beat the buzzer with this mind-boggling attempt at a 3-point scoop shot:
Of course, the Warriors have had plenty of entertainment value in years past — what appears to make this season's team different is that they match that joy with wickedly effective basketball. As our Dan Devine noted in his preview of the game, Golden State boasts one of the league's top benches, which figured to help them make up for the loss of Thompson. Yet the Warriors went beyond that expectation and didn't appear to miss their All-Star shooting guard at all. Andre Iguodala was terrific at both ends and finished with 21 points on 9-of-12 shooting, six assists, and three steals in 29 minutes. Meanwhile, starter Harrison Barnes took on a greater offensive workload and put up a team-high 25 points on 11-of-13 from the field. This was the kind of game that made it look as if the Warriors have no weaknesses — every player who saw time contributed in some way, often spectacularly.
The Hawks have little reason to feel despondent after the loss, but their play without Korver did indicate why he's so important to their offense. A team that relies on precision rather than overwhelming talent often loses a step when any one player misses time, and that was the case for Atlanta in Oakland. They shot a respectable 8-of-22 from three-point range but just 35.6 percent from the field, including a 4-of-18 disappointment from All-Star center Al Horford and a combined 2-of-18 shooting from Schröder and Kent Bazemore, Korver's replacement in the starting lineup. It was not a night to remember for Atlanta, even if one game does not make a trend.
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