There are moments in time where everything slows down, every little thing becomes obvious, and you just know what to do and how to get it done. The Golden State Warriors are the only team in the NBA the last decade, and perhaps longer than that depending on your memory, that reaches that status of nirvana on both sides of the floor. On Wednesday night, the show started late second quarter with the Warriors down 11 and ended with them up 17 by the beginning of the fourth quarter. It wasn’t greatness. It is the fleeting liberation from the pains of humanic limitations.
In trap games of the past, Stephen Curry has come through over and over again in saving this team from any opponent effort that’s normally more than enough. The story remained consistent against a young Chicago Bulls team willing to sprint up and down the court, jacking up shots at an even quicker rate than a team with 3 of the greatest shooters of all time. They finished the first quarter on a 12-0 run and wreaked havoc on the Warriors bench players.
Perhaps the most concerning point of this Warriors season to date are the bench play of guys like Nick Young, Andre Iguodala, Omri Casspi, Patrick McCaw, and anyone else Steve Kerr is trying to fit into the 3 shooters on offense. They’re relying not on the depth of the team to bring them back but the bailout talents of Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Stephen Curry.
But on this night, it was more than great enough. Thompson started hot, remained on fire, and railed three 3s in a row to start the 32-12 third stanza. He’s the flamethrower that teams simply cannot account for given the structure of flow and offense. In transition, you’re worried about Steph dancing and KD roaring down the lane, leaving Klay infinitely open. And the Warriors make it a point to get him the ball. Guys like Zaza Pachulia and Kevon Looney, who don’t look to shoot to a detriment, are able to find him at all times. He’s the NOS.
Kevin Durant accrued 19 points, 7 assists, and 8 rebounds. With Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala out, he essentially melded all their defensive capabilities, length, unselfishness and playmaking to make the offense run more smoothly than even the full strength Warriors. The more usage KD takes, the better he becomes. It seems obvious but it takes a certain type of leadership and awareness on what he needs to do on any given night to keep this team unstoppable. He could simply protect the rim against Lauri Markkanen, grab the rebound, then run through the lane and find Steph on the wing for a back-breaking triple. Perhaps the most impressive play was Durant’s ability to take a backseat when Steph got rolling. Steph found the middle of the lane wide open, but picked up his dribble and swung to KD on the top of the key. Instead taking his man iso, he waited for Steph to relocate to the side, and dished it for an easy line up. He’s the all-encompassing feature set, the entire vehicle frame, and everything in between.
Then there’s Stephen Curry. He started hot, remained on fire, and never let the Bulls think they could outshoot the greatest ever to grace the hardwood. I’ve spent hours, and thousands of words, trying to adequately summate the fear he stokes in the eyes of the victim. The best way I’ve got today is the difference in impact of the points. Klay dropped 38 on 12-22 from the field and 7-9 shooting from 3. Steph was a little behind with just 30 points on 10-18 and 6-11 from distance. The difference? The impact, the helplessness, and the body language of Zach Lavine, Kris Dunn, and Fred Hoiberg when they come to the striking realization that there is nothing you can actually gameplan or do when the reckoning is upon you. There’s only one thing worse than losing. Steph completely and ruthlessly rips away your hope of winning.
He’s the engine.
Together, even for just a stretch, the Golden State Warriors reached Basketball Nirvana.