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Game 34 rewind: Hottest team in the NBA throttles the champs as Curry, Lee star

Heat vs. Warriors

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.

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Game 33 rewind: Warriors don’t look ahead to South Beach, crush Magic

Orlando is a fine town. The Amway Center is terrific (from a reporter’s perspective, it should be the standard that all arenas are modeled after. The ease of travel from media room to locker rooms to your seat is splendid). But if you’re getting set to head to Miami for New Year’s Eve, who wouldn’t be looking ahead?

Well the easy answer here is any professional athlete who makes millions and takes their job seriously. And that’s absolutely true. But despite all that, it’s only natural to look ahead to New Year’s in South Beach and a showdown with the defending champs.

The Warriors didn’t do that. They straight up took care of business. The starters jumped out early in the first quarter. And in a sign of good things to come, the reserves closed out the first quarter by maintaining the lead. When the starters returned in the second, the lead swelled to 23 by halftime.

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Pregame notes: Warriors not fueled by last year’s loss in Orlando

The Warriors only loss on a wildly successful seven-game road trip last year came in Orlando.

After opening that trip with five straight wins — including a victory in Miami — Golden State was blasted 99-85. That completed a season-sweep by the Magic against the Warriors and represented their eighth win in the past nine meetings. It was also Orlando’s 16th win the past 19 home games against Golden State.

Does that provide any extra fuel for the Warriors entering tonight’s matchup?

“No,” coach Mark Jackson said. “We want to get this one because it’s on the schedule. It hasn’t nothing to do with last year.”

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Game 32 rewind: Warriors pick up their defense in the second half and open long trip with win

First a little programming note: I will not be at today’s Warriors practice in Orlando. The Dubs practice at 12:15 p.m. (9:15 a.m. Pacific) and my morning flight from Cleveland to Orlando has been cancelled. I won’t make it to Orlando until the late afternoon at the earliest. So hopefully nothing groundbreaking comes out of that central Florida work out today.

Let’s rewind to last night. That first half was ugly for the Warriors, with the notable except being the hot-shooting of Stephen Curry. He was on fire, scoring 24 of his 29 points on 8 of 11 shooting, including 5 of 5 from beyond the arc. But everything else didn’t look good.

David Lee had goose eggs (0 points, 0 rebounds in 10 minutes of foul-plagued action) and the Cavs had 64 points. As Draymond Green said, “You can’t give up 64 points to anyone … any team.”

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Toney Douglas out vs. Cavaliers with food poisoning, W’s to face former backup PG Jarrett Jack

The Warriors renew acquaintances on Sunday night with Jarrett Jack, their former backup point guard who played such a vital role during last year’s run to the Western Conference semifinals.

Their reunion with Jack comes on a night in which current backup point guard Toney Douglas will be unavailable. Douglas has food poisoning and is out for Sunday’s 3 p.m. tip against the Cleveland Cavaliers — the first game of a season-long seven-game road trip.

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Stephen Curry says Warriors aren’t ‘panicking’

Hey all, filling in for the fill-in Carl Steward. I’ll be spending a bit of time with the Warriors over the next couple of weeks and will handle the first five games of the W’s massive seven-game East Coast road trip that begins Dec. 29. (I’ll be in Cleveland, Orlando, Miami, Atlanta and Washington before Carl joins the team to close out the trip in Milwaukee and Brooklyn). Feel free to find me on Twitter if you desire at @Jimmy_Durkin. On to some of the talk from today’s Warriors practice. 

The Warriors are in a rough stretch. Poor starts, sloppy play and nine losses in their past 14 games. It’s killed the buzz of a good start and put a team with, as Stephen Curry said, “crazy expectations,” in a funk.

Nobody’s happy with how the team is playing, but they also aren’t getting overly concerned. They maintain confidence they’ll shake out of it.

“Nobody’s panicking, nobody’s jumping off the mission,” Curry said. “It’s just a tough time right now. We’ve got to battle through it.”

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