The Warriors are officially the best NBA home team of all time.
Golden State (56-6) held off the scrappy Orlando Magic 119-113 Monday evening, streaking to an NBA record-breaking 45 consecutive home wins, as much as it pains some of their toughest critics.
Orlando (27-35) played the Warriors close early, and then again late. Golden State pulled away deep into the 2nd quarter, and also in the fourth, before the Magic trimmed Golden State’s lead to just two 111-109 after a pair of Victor Oladipo free throws with just 1:13 left in the game.
But maybe that was simple theatrics.
It wasn’t a pretty one at times, with an ill Draymond Green lobbing a pass out of bounds and into the fifth row of Oracle Arena during the first quarter, and an alley-oop pass sailing through the waiting hands of Klay Thompson halfway through the third.
Splash Brothers Stephen Curry and Thompson both scored in double figures, as did their benchmate Brandon Rush. Curry scored 41 points on 14-for-24 shooting; Thompson notched 27 points, and Rush put up 11.
Curry also continued his own record, hitting his 300th triple of the season. With 20 games to go, Curry is on pace for about 400.
Curry is also on pace to make Charles Barkley wrong some more.
Barkley was quoted in Dime Magazine during the NBA All Star week saying:
“He’s not a great playmaker. He’s just a great shooter.”
Beyond the fact that Curry has proven to be a constant defensive threat, and has developed into an effective finisher in the paint, another more important point is to be made.
Curry’s 46 percent clip from range, combined with his volume of shots, means that he can’t lose by taking more shots. There is no regression to the mean.
There is no coming down from the stars and landing face first onto a flat and moist piece of earth. He’s so darn good at three point shooting, and shooting in general, that his presence is nothing short of playmaking.
Teams that face the Warriors have to pay special attention to Curry. And not one single visitor to Oracle Arena has found an answer.
The Magic certainly didn’t, as Curry proved Barkley wrong in another area, with the baby-faced assassin grabbed 12 boards.
Golden State has re-written the book on team first basketball, but it’s tough to argue that the home record isn’t a result of Curry’s dominance.
But Curry has helped elevate the Warriors so far into the record books that anyone who thinks he isn’t the best player in basketball needs serious psychological help, and immediately.
The Warriors are giving haters plenty, too, and, after this record, the biggest of them all outside of a championship looms: the 1995-’96 Chicago Bulls’ most wins in a season, 72, which Golden State is closing in on in a hurry.
Despite being the greatest show on maple, head coach Steve Kerr isn’t happy with the way his team is playing:
“Whoever is out there should be productive and solid and efficient. I think it’s a matter of taking things for granted. It’s like the game is coming too easy. We’re winning. Steph is bailing us out an awful lot. He bailed us out tonight. But we can’t count on that. We can’t rely on that. We need to get back to being the best defensive team in the league again. Which we were a year ago.”
The Warriors are 21st in the league in points allowed per game, 14th in opponent assists, 14th in opponent rebounds and 6th in the league for opponents field goal percentage.
The raw numbers indicate that teams are simply taking more shots because they feel that is the best strategy. In some cases, that is certainly true. But Kerr says there are major deficiencies:
“We’ve got to take care of the ball. We have to have a collective mindset of ‘lets make the simple play and be sharp defensively.’ … The one that bothers me the most is when we let guys out of vision. And when they cut backdoor, and when we have no vision of when.”
The Warriors can’t be a good defensive basketball team when they give up layups and dunks, according to Kerr, along with coughing up up 24 turnovers — which Golden State did against the Magic, leading to 23 points.
The San Antonio Spurs are setting the pace for league defense, and, though the Warriors beat them by 30 points when the two clashed last in January, Tim Duncan and company remain the team to beat.
San Antonio and Golden State will face each other three more times, but there is a caveat. Two of the three games come in April, when it’s highly likely that the Spurs will have locked up the 2nd seed.
Given Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich’s track record of resting veteran players, along an absence of any advantage by starting the usual five, Golden State might not be able to find a wake-up call until the postseason.
And according to Draymond Green, the Warriors offense is pretty bad right now:
“Our defense is really suffering because of our offense. When you turn over the ball that many times, you can’t get the defense set. When you can’t get the defense set, you’re fouling to stop the break. All of a sudden you’re in the penalty early. All of a sudden they’re at the free throw line. They’re stopping the game getting free throws. They get a chance to set their defense up, and we can’t get to the tempo we want to get to. So our defense won’t get better until our offense gets better, and that really needs to improve.”
Unusual as it is to criticize the offense of a team who has only missed triple-digit scoring four times three-quarters of the way into an NBA season, that’s precisely what Green is doing.
What’s more, he is absolutely right.
Golden State has some time to get back to the basics. It almost feels more of a when than an if. But until the team corrects their shortcomings, a second consecutive championship seems less of a lock than it did two months ago.