The defending champion Golden State Warriors can look back at a decent preseason, wrapping up 3-3 with one cancelled game.
But what counted most was that they finished Thursday’s night game against the Los Angeles Lakers with a victory that felt like their brand of basketball.
Golden State breezed through their preseason finale in Anaheim with a double-digit lead that widened as the quarters went by, defeating the Lakers 136-97 seemingly effortlessly. Golden State was crisp, with even the bench in the fourth quarter handling the ball with command.
“We had one opportunity, one last opportunity to play our brand of basketball and feel good about ourselves going into Tuesday night and I think we accomplished that. We played a full 48 minutes and still got some things that we can tighten up but I think everybody out there played aggressive, found a way to impact the game.”
The Lakers-dominated arena was quiet for the majority of the game until Andre Iguodala drove to the basket for a slam dunk to give Golden State a 100-71 lead late in the third quarter, drawing boo’s. Harrison Barnes, who scored an impressive 23 points, dunked the ball shortly after, further deflating the purple-and-gold crowd.
The Warriors’ victory was a big leap forward after last Saturday, when the Lakers (without Kobe Bryant due to a lower leg contusion) took a 85-70 lead in San Diego before the game was cancelled – and does not count – due to dangerous floor conditions.
Asked what the difference was Thursday, Curry jokingly said:
“I think it was all in the floor.”
What really lead the Warriors to a 39-point win was defense, according to Andre Iguodala, who scored 8 points. He said his team executed defense with effort, intensity and competed:
“We talked about it in practice, but in the preseason games it hadn’t showed up.”
Draymond Green agreed that everyone stepped up their game and highlighted the importance of keeping that rhythm going into Tuesday’s home opener against the New Orleans Pelicans:
“Tonight was important – we approached this game like it was a real game and it showed.”
The Warriors beat the Toronto Raptors, Houston Rockets and Lakers on Thursday but lost to the Portland Trail Blazers, Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Clippers two days prior when Curry and Iguodala sat out to rest:
“Practice was solid, games were up and down but it’s the preseason and these guys are the defending champions – that’s kind of what you expect. I think if you look around the league I don’t think Cleveland is winning games in the preseason, I don’t think San Antonio is winning games. It’s more important that our guys are fresh and healthy going into the season so we feel good about our progress so far.”
While Walton sung praises for his team, the players have reciprocated for their first-time interim head coach. Iguodala said:
“I thought he stepped up.”
The Warriors, who in past seasons have been marred with injuries, go into their season opener with their stars healthy. Andrew Bogut is out with a broken nose, Jarrell Eddie has a right ankle sprain and Kevon Looney is recovering from right hip surgery.
Meanwhile, Curry is feeling great. The MVP said he feels he’s improved since last season:
“I honestly don’t know what my numbers are. I feel like I’m a better player and still getting rhythm as you go through the preseason but trying to be aggressive, playing the way to try to help my team, hope that means good results at the end of the day. So I’ve just got to follow that and take it with me.”