It’s official. The Golden State Warriors are the hottest team in the NBA. Technically, they already held that distinction with their six straight wins, the longest active streak going. But rolling into South Beach and taking down the champs — rather comfortably I might add — puts the big ol’ rubber stamp on it.
And people are taking notice, particularly regarding the play of Stephen Curry.
“One of the best shooters this NBA will see,” Heat star LeBron James said. “I mean, if you can find a better shooter than him right now, especially with the way he handles the ball — and the light that he has, it’s more than green, it’s fluorescent — you just hope that he misses.”
I wasn’t in the Heat locker room for James’ comments but caught a glimpse on SportsCenter. He spoke with a sense that there was just nothing they do to slow the budding super star down. We can probably scratch the word budding off that description. Curry is a super star.
Mark Jackson has done his share of politicking for Curry to make the All-Star team. He can stop. Curry’s in. There’s no doubt about it. He was third the last time votes were announced behind Kobe and Chris Paul and Kobe may not even be healthy by then. Even if Curry doesn’t get to the top two in the backcourt to be voted a starter, he’ll be a reserve. But he’s playing like a starter. Having him and CP3 in the backcourt for the West would be fun to watch.
Jackson wouldn’t say Curry elevates his game for showcase-type opportunities like this one. And it’s true that he’s used to seeing Curry deliver at a consistently high level. But I think it’s fair to say Curry turned it up a notch for facing the Heat. He’s a star and stars like to put on a show — especially in games against the champs.
Like I wrote in the game story, the reaction to the win said a lot. There wasn’t a feeling of “look what we just did.” It was a game they felt they could win — while admitting they had to be a little extra aggressive and take a few chances. They weren’t surprised they beat the Heat and don’t think you should be either.
Lost in all the praise for Curry, we can’t forget about what David Lee did with his 32 points and 14 rebounds. He was popping jumpers, scoring off the pick and roll and getting the ball on the block and scoring in the post. The Heat had to respect him and that helped open things up for Curry and vice versa.
Is it time to start talking about Lee getting back to the All-Star Game? Maybe. He’s been playing at that level during the Warriors’ hot streak. If he can keep it up, there’s a chance. The Warriors are only a game away from being the No. 4 seed in the West. After last year’s playoff run, they’ve proven to be a top-level team in the conference. Why shouldn’t they have two All-Stars?
Now it’s on to the next one, the first of two back-to-backs on this seven-game trip. It’s a tough one in Atlanta, the current No. 3 in the East, even with a solid but unspectacular 18-14 mark. Can the Warriors win the second leg of a back-to-back after a high energy win? It’s the kind of trap that kept them from going 7-0 on last year’s long trip, when they lost to Orlando after beating the Heat. If they do get the W, it’d give them their longest winning streak since 2005 and keep them right on the heels of the Clippers in the Pacific Division (one game out right now). At that point, the idea of a 7-0 trip could start becoming a discussion point.
Before I leave you until tonight, I wanted to share some good news. After a lengthy search, we have hired a new Warriors beat writer. Carl Steward and I have both just been keeping the bench warm until we found someone full time — the rigorous travel schedule doesn’t quite fit our lifestyles. I, for one, have an 8-month-old daughter at home.
Our new beat writer will start Jan. 20. He comes to us fresh off covering Michigan State’s Rose Bowl win over Stanford for MLive.com, where he also served as their lead beat writer for Michigan State basketball (Draymond Green will like that). He also has worked for ESPN.com covering college basketball and the Riverside Press-Enterprise covering baseball. So give a warm welcome to Diamond Leung when he joins the fold in a couple weeks. You can give him a follow on Twitter at Twitter.com/Diamond83 and welcome him.
Carl and I will be with you until then. I’ve got the next two games in this trip, then Carl finishes it out and will also have you at home. I’ll do the Oklahoma City/New Orleans trip just before Diamond hops on board.