Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry (30) dribbles past San Antonio Spurs’ Patty Mills (8) as he slips on the floor in the first quarter of their game at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif., on Monday, Jan. 25, 2016. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)
Here are five things we learned from the Warriors’ 120-90 win against the San Antonio Spurs:
1. Stephen Curry is unstoppable, and that goes for the NBA’s top-ranked defense. He was 6-for-9 from 3-point range after having had his struggles against his Spurs in the past. Draymond Green said he noticed the day before the game Curry would be ready. “He came out and showed that when he came out and hit that three from like 37 feet out, he confirmed it,” Green said.
2. The Spurs were left humbled by the Warriors — for the most part. Gregg Popovich said three times in his two-minute postgame interview that it was like men against boys during the game. “I don’t think that there was one area in which it was close,” Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said. LaMarcus Aldridge after struggling against Green wasn’t backing down, though, explaining he was simply too eager. “I felt like I had a matchup,” Aldridge said after his 2-for-9 shooting performance.
3. The Warriors’ bench played well again. Steve Kerr went out of his way to especially point out the contributions of Brandon Rush, who after giving up his spot in the starting lineup to Harrison Barnes came on and was 3-for-4 from 3-point range. Shaun Livingston was dominating with a 6-for-6 shooting performance. Andre Iguodala and Festus Ezeli helped the bench regain some of that scoring consistency it had lost earlier in the season.
4. Green set the tone again with his defense. “Just his heart,” Curry noted. “He’s a little undersized. He loves taking on those challenges.” Kawhi Leonard got plenty of attention before the game, but it was Green who stood out. Aldridge probably noticed even if he actually thought he held the advantage.
5. Kerr was happy with the win to say the least. He smiled and joked when asked about Popovich, saying of his mentor, “That’s my guy, but I don’t feel that bad right now.” He spoke of how his team manages to rise to the occasion. “They’re a pretty cocky group,” Kerr said. “They are. In a good way, though. They corral that arrogance and they believe.”
Golden State Warriors’ Draymond Green (23) and Stephen Curry (30) celebrate a basket by Green in the first quarter of their NBA game against the Indiana Pacers at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif., on Friday, Jan. 22, 2016. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group)
Here are five things we learned from the Warriors’ 122-110 win against the Indiana Pacers:
1. Steve Kerr has his sense of humor back. That was always going to be one of the indications of how Kerr was feeling, and on an emotional night when he basked in standing ovation, he had jokes as well. Asked about Stephen Curry’s triple-double in which he hit a halfcourt shot, Kerr explained it was “great coaching.” He’s back.
2. The Warriors have the utmost respect for the Spurs. The one topic Kerr wasn’t happy to address at length was the upcoming matchup. Players spoke with a reverence about what San Antonio has accomplished in the past and how the team has kept it going. Monday’s game can’t come sooner for basketball fans.
3. Curry is unreal, but we knew that. To hit a shot from three-quarters of the way down the court after the buzzer and then bank in a halfcourt shot at the next buzzer is ridiculous. But looking at Kerr after Curry hit his eighth 3-pointer, all the coach did was dip his head as if to say, “yep.” This stuff is almost expected from Curry by now.
4. The Warriors still have room to grow. Kerr noted that the Warriors didn’t have their “best stuff” in the win, as they let the Pacers hang around and committed 17 turnovers. It’s Kerr’s full-time presence that is counted on to get the Warriors closer to championship level.
5. Leandro Barbosa continues to shine after coming back from a sprained shoulder. He’s provided the spark off the bench, with 13 points on 5-for-7 shooting.
Here are five things we learned from the Warriors’ 125-94 win against the Chicago Bulls:
1. The Warriors play with chemistry and trust. Those are the qualities of the team that Leandro Barbosa cited when I asked what would give him license to throw up an underhanded lob pass to Andre Iguodala for a dunk. That low-percentage pass might not thrill the coaches, but the Warriors are playing with that much confidence in each other.
2. Steve Kerr likes that the Warriors are moving the ball around as he would have liked. He noted to the team after the win that over the past two games, it had combined for 71 assists and 18 turnovers. “That’s an unbelievable stat,” Andrew Bogut said.
3. The bench has bounced back. It had a rough go in the wakeup-call loss at Detroit, but was in fine form in Chicago. Barbosa gave the Warriors a lift on offense. Andre Iguodala looked spry throwing down an up-and-under dunk. Shaun Livingston was 6-for-8 from the field.
4. The Warriors avoided injury for the most part. Draymond Green passed the NBA’s concussion protocol. Andrew Bogut’s back spasms are a recurring issue and didn’t keep him out of the game long. Stephen Curry was icing his shins, but got right back up after Derrick Rose crashed into him.
5. Harrison Barnes played well. He might not yet be 100 percent after missing so many weeks with a sprained ankle, but he scored points on 8-for-13 shooting, including 3-for-5 from 3-point range. When he’s a threat to score, the Warriors have an embarrassment of riches on offense.
Here are five things we learned from the Warriors’ 132-98 win against the Cleveland Cavaliers:
1. The Warriors are hard to beat when they have 33 assists and only eight turnovers. That’s a lot of ball movement leading to open shots. It also helped the Warriors got back on track on defense as the Cavaliers had 16 turnovers. “A lot of stuff went right, and just about everything went wrong for them,” Draymond Green said.
2. Luke Walton didn’t think the rout would send a message or hamper the Cavaliers going forward. Maybe he’s right, but the loss did have LeBron James saying, “We have a long way to go.” It can’t help Cleveland’s confidence in winning a title that the Warriors swept the season series in decisive fashion.
3. The Warriors’ small lineup is good against the Cavaliers. That was proven, of course, in the NBA Finals. It continues to be true, with Andre Iguodala having a big game and Green doing what he does. Festus Ezeli got plenty of action as well, giving the Warriors a quick-strike offense.
4. Stephen Curry has a way with words. His lighthearted joke about hoping the visiting locker room smelled like champagne might have drawn an overreaction. But Curry was not fazed and afterward said this: “It smelled like Morton’s catered.” Morton’s was the postgame meal and the steakhouse in Cleveland where the Warriors celebrated the title last season.
5. James could only marvel at the Warriors. There was in-game frustration with the shove of Curry and the technical foul he was whistled for. Afterward, he was forced to tip his cap again. “Draymond did a great job attacking our scheme and putting pressure on our defense either to assist, score or make plays. And obviously Steph, hitting the shots that he hit. Iguodala’s production off the bench. They got a little bit of everything.”
Here are five things we learned from the Warriors’ 112-110 loss to the Denver Nuggets:
1. Draymond Green was missed. Stephen Curry sat next to him after the game and heaped praise on the forward who’s All-Star caliber impact on the team became even more clear. Curry noted Green’s ability to guard four positions and be vocal on defense. “He has a very impactful skill set,” Curry said.
2. Harrison Barnes looked like his old self for the most part. He was disappointed some open shots in the second half didn’t fall, but he made a difference early on when the Warriors were going through a lull. He had an offensive rebound and dunk. He hit a 3-pointer that tied the game in the second quarter. Still, it wasn’t enough as Barnes experienced a loss for the first time this season.
3. The Warriors never say die, though that’s not much of a surprise. They never think they’re out of a game. Down by seven points with under a minute left, Curry went to work. The Warriors simply missed their opportunities. “Any time you got an MVP of the league on your team, you can go down there and hit some crazy shots, you’ll always have a chance to win the game,” Barnes said.
4. The Warriors needed to play smarter (see: Danilo Gallinari). Gallinari scored 17 of his 28 points on a night when he was 5-for-14 from the field. Luke Walton and multiple players noted that they simply didn’t have to foul him so often. Had Green not been rested, he would have had an impact there.
5. The Warriors were fine with that final look. Curry was the first option, but Walton said he would of course live with Thompson taking the shot, too. Thompson said he didn’t get his legs in it, and the shot fell short.
To go along with the story I wrote about the Warriors taking Todd Fuller over Kobe Bryant. which you can read here, I did a side-by-side breakdown of their respective careers through Sunday’s games. Enjoy:
x Fuller Bryant
NBA Seasons 5 20
NBA games played 225 1,311
Minutes 2,500 47,717
Points Scored 835 33,029
Scoring Average 3.7 25.2
Best scoring average year 4.1 35.4
Most points in an NBA game 18 81
Three-point baskets 0 1,722
Rebounds 674 6,929
Assists 46 6,229
Steals 34 1,911
Blocked shots 60 633
Shooting percentage .422 .449
Free throw percentage .668 .836
College games played 115 0
All-NBA first team selections 0 11
NBA MVP Awards 0 1
First-team all-defensive selections 0 9
All-Star Game selections* 0 18
All-Star MVP Awards 0 4
Playoff appearances 1 15
Career playoff games 10 220
NBA Finals MVP Awards 0 2
Career playoff scoring average 2.6 25.6
NBA championships 0 5
*–Counting this season, in which he is the leading vote-getter for the 2016 game
To go with it, here’s a list of players who were still available after the Warriors took Fuller with the 11th pick in 1996 (all played at least 10 years in the league):
- Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
- Peja Stojakovic, Sacramento
- Steve Nash, Phoenix Suns
- Jermaine O’Neal, Indiana Pacers
- Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Cleveland Cavaliers
- Derek Fisher, Los Angeles Lakers
- Othella Harrington, Houston Rockets
Undrafted. Ben Wallace, Detroit Pistons
Stephen Curry’s first contact with Kobe Bryant came when he was a 19 year old sophomore at Davidson University. He attended Bryant’s annual skills camp in Orange County and soaked in the knowledge of a player who had already established himself as an NBA icon.
“That was when I was a shooting guard, so it was cool,” said Curry, grinning.
The next encounter came when he entered the league in 2009 and actually had to play against Kobe. Curry readily admits his heart was pounding and he was awestruck when he stepped on the floor against a player he had watched so many times growing up.
“I got that moment out of my system maybe the third or fourth preseason game I ever played,” he recalled. “We played them at the Forum. It was pretty cool to be in that building for one, but also go against Kobe for the first time. After that, you kind of had to be ready to go. You can’t have that star-struck moment any more.