At a recent Warriors shootaround in the Chase Center, a veteran reporter and I briefly caught up. We talked about how it was such nice timing that I joined the San Francisco Giants beat in August, when SF was in the middle of a historic 107-win season.
It’s not too shabby of a time to be on the Dubs beat, I countered. At the time, Golden State was 10-1.
No, no, no. This is nothing.
“I was here for 24-0,” the scribe said.
Since the rise of Stephen Curry, the Warriors have set an impossibly high bar for themselves. Three championships and a sport-altering super team will do that. No one understands that better than Curry and the other figures inside the building.
“We came into the locker room after, excited about the win,” Curry said after GSW dispatched Brooklyn. “Good bounce back. Coach is talking about the steps we need to continue to take to truly be a championship caliber team. There were some things tonight: dumb fouls, couple turnovers, losing focus offensively a couple times. That’s the standard we need to hold ourselves to.”
The Warriors sound as locked in as they look.
“No matter how excited everybody gets about Warriors basketball being back, we all know — me, Draymond, Andre, Klay, Loon — we all know what the playoffs are like,” Curry added. “The margin for error just shrinks dramatically. All those points are going to matter, even in a win like tonight, where you have to lock in on those come May, April and June. We still have a lot to prove.”
Even after a convincing win over Brooklyn in which Curry brought Nets fans to their feet every time he touched the ball and Draymond Green’s magnificent defense led a group effort that stymied Kevin Durant, the Warriors (12-2) aren’t satisfied.
In postgame interviews, Curry, Green and head coach Steve Kerr were the first to remind everyone that Golden State can be better. Much, much better.
“We’ve got to get smarter,” Kerr said. “We’ve got to get wiser with our defense. The defense is fantastic and suffocating, but it has to be done without fouling. As pleased as I am with the results of tonight and the effort of tonight, we’ve got a ways to go. The fouling, the turnovers, the lack of offensive execution, it’s glaring. But the great thing is, we’re winning because we’re playing with great passion and energy and great defense.”
One of the first points Green brought up in his postgame presser was how Golden State needs to be better about fouling. Curry mentioned it, too. They allowed 19 first-half free throws, which in turn forced the Warriors to run offense against Brooklyn’s set defense. Once they cooled it on the unnecessary fouls, the Warriors took over.
Identify a problem and fix it. Golden State has been the league’s preeminent problem-solver since Curry and Green — plus Klay Thompson — began sharing the court. They also know what it takes to be great and won’t get carried away with a November win, no matter how impressive.
“Thought we played a pretty good game tonight,” Green said. “But a lot of things we could’ve done better. Like the fouling. (Twenty-one) turnovers, could’ve done better. We’re a good team. We think we’re a good team. But we can continue to get better. If we want to compete in the end like we all hope, we have to continue to improve. We’re nowhere near where we need to be.”
No brash declarations. Just calm, veteran wisdom that inexperienced players on the roster can take note of.
NET RATING THROUGH 14 GAMES
A lot to prove. A ways to go. Nowhere near where we need to be. The clichés hold weight when the team is 12-2 and has a core that’s won three titles together.
Even while they’re still in the stage of meshing inexperienced players with veterans in the rotation, the Warriors are the only team in the top-five in both offensive and defensive rating — the latter of which is leads the NBA. Despite so much room for growth, Golden State leads the league in points per game.
The Warriors were +1100 preseason to win the title but had an over/under set at 48.5 regular season wins. A day before the Nets win, GSW’s championship odds already decreased to +750. Through three weeks, the Warriors are winning at an 85.7% clip — a 70-win pace.
It’s a long season. Golden State isn’t going to win 85% of its games. There will be lulls. Peaks and valleys.
But so far, the Warriors are doing all the right things. Just as important, they’re saying all the right things, too.