It’s been a running joke on the show as the Warriors have puttered along in 2022-23.
“Hey, maybe this is just the year the Warriors decided to take the first 50 games off.”
Ten games later . . .
“Or maybe this is the year the Warriors decided to take the first 60 games off.”
Ten games later . . .
“Uh . . . maybe this is the year the Warriors decided to take the first *SEVENTY* games off ??”
And then, Wednesday night in Dallas, the Warriors surfaced.
74 games in, sports fans.
Holy meaningless NBA regular season, Batman.
Steph Curry and the boys didn’t play like anything was at stake — in a road game, mind; there have been some inspired home wins — until late March!
The season started in October. Now that’s what I call load management.
The Warriors are still 9-29 on the road, which is an embarrassment to the legacy of Forever Warriors Otto Porter and Nemanja Bjelica, who were part of a 22-19 road crew last year.
But they’re 2-0 in their last two, which may be all that matters. The wins in Houston (duh) and the big win in Dallas — which should forever be known in Big D as the “CYO 4B Game”, when the Mavericks were at the wrong end of the court on an inbounds play — show that the Warriors may have finally understood that their legacies were on the line.
Going from defending champ to play-in bracket would be a bad look. Going from defending champ to *missing* the play-in bracket would be downright uncivilized.
This is, after all, three guys named Steph, Klay and Draymond, right? I mean, how can you welcome people back to the “Warriors Invitational” if the Warriors aren’t even invited?
If you watched the Mavericks game, you kept waiting for the awful road Warriors to emerge. You know the brand. You’ve watched it all year. Lazy perimeter defense. Careless turnovers. A brief bout of contention, followed by an inevitable surge by the home team, and a strange, almost passive acceptance by the Warriors while the home arena roars.
We’d come to the show in the morning all winter and try to figure things out. “It’s tough to defend a title”, would be one fall-back. “They’re tired”, was another. “They miss Andrew Wiggins” was a rather reasonable argument. “They traded for Gary Payton II, and he’s gone all Carlos Correa on us”, was a post-trade talking point.
It’s gotten to where we’re conditioned to expect that bad Warriors ball on the road, so much so that as the Mavericks game on Wednesday evolved into its late stages, you sort of braced for the inevitable collapse. You braced for the team that surrenders the big bucket, or chucks up a poor shot.
That team never showed.
Instead, the champs showed up.
Steph fed Draymond for a critical and-one three-point play. Draymond flexed. Draymond then turned in vintage Michigan State defense —perhaps to honor Tom Izzo’s Sweet 16 run — by stoning James Hardy at the rim. Then, in the final 30 seconds — when most every NBA game is determined — there was no careless turnover or ill-advised three-point attempt. Instead, Curry wisely drove to the basket, exploiting a mismatch and using a brilliant seal-off by Draymond for the lay-up that iced it. For good measure, Draymond smothered Luka Doncic on the next possession to kill off any Maverick pulse.
There they were. The road Warriors, the ones who just nine months ago won the freaking NBA title on Boston’s home court. The same team that just lost 11 road games in a row. There they were.
With four home games coming up, you like the Warriors’ chances of a six, or even a five, seed in the West. You like their chances of avoiding the play-in bracket, And if you’re the 3-seed Sacramento Kings, or the 4-seed Phoenix Suns, you don’t like any of it. You don’t like seeing the Warriors deciding to show up, right now, all of a sudden. You’d rather see the Warriors Invitational go the way of the NIT.
But there’s no denying we recognized those guys on Wednesday night.
Only took ‘em 74 games, is all.