Golden State Warriors’ Latest Win Shows They Are Title Contenders


No one in Dub Nation expected this kind of start to the Steve Kerr era:  a franchise record 14 straight wins, a 19-2 NBA best record, and the best start in NBA history for a rookie head coach. Yet, these are among the very accolades the Golden State Warriors have garnered this season.

The Warriors have matured immensely and improved greatly, even from a 51-win season a year ago.  The Warriors have evolved into an elite and balanced team.  They are skilled, hard-working, and well-coached.  The Warriors have simultaneously championed offensive efficiency and defensive tenacity.  This is delineated in the Warriors ranking second in the NBA in field goal percentage (.482) and first in the NBA in opponent field goal percentage (.409).

The team is healthy, the starting unit is incredibly talented, the bench is as deep as ever, and the coaching is sound.  All the key components requisite for success are in place. However, it was not until the Warriors’ 105-93 win over the Houston Rockets on Tuesday night did the term title contender enter the conversation.

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There has been some criticism about the Warriors’ win streak being tempered by the caliber of teams they have beaten.  Detractors like to focus on the Warriors feasting on the clearly inferior Eastern Conference squads and bottom-dwellers in the Western Conference in the early going.  However, the Warriors do not make the schedule and have simply taken care of business.

These NBA pundits saw in full force Tuesday night what type of team the Warriors are and premonitions of what they might be like in June.

On Tuesday night, heavyweights collided as the 18-2 Warriors squared off against the 16-4 Rockets.  Both starting centers were unable to go, as Andrew Bogut and Dwight Howard were out with knee injuries.  The Warriors were riding a 13-game win streak, and the Rockets had won four straight themselves.

The Rockets’ defense stymied the Warriors in the first half, as Golden State shot less than 40 percent much of the half, and at one point, were 1-of-10 on three pointers. On the other end, the Rockets were driving at will and eventually would end up scoring 50 points in the paint for the game.

The simple explanation for this early subpar performance was the lack of Bogut.  The offense was stagnant without Bogut facilitating, as virtually each offensive possession is run through the Australian center.  Equally important was the lack of rim protection on the defensive end, leaving the lane wide open for dribble penetration and kick-outs.

The elite teams do not make excuses for shortcomings on an given night but find a way to get it done.  This is exactly the mantra the Warriors displayed down the stretch.

December 10, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green (23) dunks the basketball against Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13, left) during the fourth quarter at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Rockets 105-93. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Warriors shot a blistering 70 percent from the field and held the Rockets to 31.6 percent shooting in the fourth quarter. Golden State ended up outscoring the Rockets 32-17 in the final quarter.  The Warriors began to share the basketball and attack the paint relentlessly.  Nearly half of the Warriors’ points in the paint came in the fourth quarter alone!  When the ball is moving around, few teams have the firepower to hang with Golden State.

A combination of  Draymond Green throwing down a thunderous dunk, Harrison Barnes slashing to the basket, Stephen Curry banking a runner home, and Klay Thompson knocking down a jumper ended up throttling the Rockets in the pivotal period.

Meanwhile, defensively, the clamps were put on the Rockets forcing them into tough jump shots or a slew of turnovers.

Great teams are capable of beating quality teams only when fully healthy or when executing for 48 minutes.  It is the title contending teams that beat other great teams in spite of injuries or simply having an off night.  It is these teams that focus and redouble their efforts to persevere.

It is the title contending teams that beat other great teams in spite of injuries or simply having an off night.  It is these teams that focus and redouble their efforts to persevere.

This is what transpired for the Warriors, who for three quarters were a shell of themselves.  However, in the deciding quarter the stars aligned, and the Warriors shined their brightest.

The mettle of the Warriors was on display for the first time this season that has begun so auspiciously.  Teams that have won an NBA championship in recent years have had moxie, and this trait alone has separated them from equally elite teams.

In addition to the league leading metrics and franchise records the Warriors have set, the Warriors have the uncanny belief that they have what it takes to win every night.  The title contending teams always do.