If the rest of the 2014 season bears any resemblance to the Golden State Warriors‘ first contest of the new year, they’ll have a lot to celebrate come June.
The Warriors defeated the two-time defending champion Miami Heat Thursday night by a final score of 123-114, and they have now won seven games in a row as they surge up the Western Conference standings and make their case for the distinguished title of “hottest team in the league”.
That’s a pretty good title to hold, if you ask me.
Stephen Curry led the way with 36 points and 12 assists, going 8-for-15 from beyond the arc and going into orbit in the way that only he can when his shot is falling the way it was against whichever defender Miami threw at him. David Lee poured in 32 points with 14 rebounds, reaping the rewards on the Heat’s double teaming of Curry as the two worked the pick and roll to perfection.
Lee’s expert offense around the rim made for one of his best showings of the year, and when you add in 16 points from Klay Thompson, eight points, six assists and six rebounds from Andre Iguodala and 15 points from Harrison Barnes off the bench, the result is a well-rounded offensive effort that adds up to the most points allowed by the Heat in regulation during the Big Three’s time together.
Here is where I’m obliged to point out that LeBron James just so happened to turn in an abnormally sub-par performance. Sure, the four-time MVP had a team-high 26 points, but he had eight costly turnovers — a season high that was surely brought about by some pesky Golden State defense — and was not his usual intimidating, soul-crushing self down the stretch.
As for the rest of the Heat, it wasn’t as if they played their worst collective game, but the brilliance of Curry was too much to overcome, and they admitted as much after the game. For every Dwyane Wade breakaway layup or Chris Bosh jumper, there was an answer in the form of a in-your-face three-pointer by Curry or a cutting-t0-the-rim Lee.
Don’t think the masses didn’t take notice. Thursday’s performance was just the sort of game the Warriors needed to play to garner serious consideration as championship contenders, and we’re starting to accumulate enough evidence to support such a claim now that they’ve got a #fullsquad. As far as Steph, last night’s performance could be enough to vault him into the discussion for the MVP race, which you’ll likely hear more of only if the Dubs continue their winning ways.
As far as the short term is concerned, the Warriors have a realistic chance of finishing their seven-game road trip undefeated as they head to Atlanta tonight to face the Hawks (18-14) before taking on three teams currently bel0w .500 to round it out (Washington, Milwaukee, Brooklyn). Golden State doesn’t return home for a game until January 10 (which leaves plenty of time to get your GS Warriors tickets here.)
If that happens, look for another one of these articles next week where I proclaim Golden State overlords of the Eastern Conference and rightful heirs to the Larry O’Brien Trophy.