To defeat the Golden State Warriors, a team needs to play near flawless basketball for 48 minutes. On Wednesday night in Miami, the Heat were almost able to pull off the feat. With under six minutes remaining in the contest, the Heat took a 4-point lead on a pair of Dwayne Wade free throws. Miami had outplayed Golden State for much of the game by getting contributions from the entire roster and monster efforts from Wade and Hassan Whiteside, but in the final 5 minutes and 28 seconds, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson reminded everyone that they’re not only the best back court in the league, but one of the best tandems in the game. The duo combined for 22 points (including 4 threes) in those final minutes and propelled the Warriors to their 51st win of the season.
1) Steph and Klay combined for 75 of the Warriors 118 points. They also had 10 rebounds, 7 assists, 5 steals, 2 blocks and shot 50% from the field together. Klay kept the Warriors close with 17 points in the final frame and Steph closed it out with two dagger three-pointers in a span of 27 seconds. The Warriors don’t always need the Splash Brothers to be great, but when they are playing that way, not even a nearly perfect game from an opponent can stop the onslaught.
2) Count me as one of the people surprised that Wade is still playing at such a high-level (32 points, 7 assists) at age 34 despite never having developed a three-point stroke. His game has evolved into late-career Kobe Bryant, requisite all the old man jukes, pump fakes, turnaround fade aways, and with a splash of still-a-bit-left athleticism (he had a vintage Euro-step move in the lane). Wade’s contract situation this off-season will be interesting. Will he go the Duncan/Nowitzki route and take a smaller deal to remain a Heat lifer, or will he pull a Kobe and demand every dollar he can (deservedly) get?
3) After saying he’d “love to get after (the Warriors) smaller guys” Hassan Whiteside went out and backed up his talk. Mr. Blancote had 21 points (8-11 FG), 13 points and altered multiple Warriors’ shots in the paint. Sure, he still did Hassan stuff (a bad offensive foul with 2:49 left) but he was a beast on both sides of the ball and was the main catalyst (along with Wade) for the Heat’s success. I can’t wait to see which team gets to regret giving the talented but petulant center a massive contract this summer.
4) There was a 0.0% chance Dray was going to let Whiteside have anything to brag about. After getting blocked by Whiteside on a three-point attempt, Draymond made up for it by grabbing a huge rebound in traffic and then hitting two clutch free throws to put the Warriors up 4 with 24 seconds left.
5) Whiteside made a great play to block Draymond’s three-point attempt, but this was probably the one time he should have probably tried to swat the ball out of bounds. The Warriors are great in helter-skelter situations, so when the ball found it’s way into Steph’s hand off the ricochet, there was no way it wasn’t going to hit bottom of the net.
6) The Warriors continue to look vulnerable at the center position without Festus Ezeli. DeAndre Jordan, Al Horford and Hassan Whiteside all had their way against the Warriors shallow front line. In his first game with the team, Anderson Varejao looked slow and disjointed (although he did set a few decent screens to free Curry and you can kind of, sort of see how he can be Bogut-like passing from the elbows). Hopefully he comes along quickly.
7) But Mr. Varejao, this is not how you endear yourself to the team. Maybe call out that screen.
8) Don’t let kids watch how Steph Curry ended the first half. They might think hitting 40-footers is cool and ruin their games.
9) Andre Iguodala is hitting only 32% from the field in his last five games, so it was nice to see him drop back-to-back jumpers to start the contest. He finished with 7 points on 3-of-5 shooting, but was a -9 on the night trying to stay in front of Wade.
10) The Warriors face a young and athletic Magic squad tonight. If Scott Skiles took anything away from Portland’s victory over the Dubs, it’s that the Warriors are vulnerable to quick teams that have penetrating guards and wings. The Magic don’t have the shooting that the Blazers do, but it should still be a fun contest featuring new starter and San Jose native Aaron Gordon, who can wow fans with in-game dunks too.