It looked at times Friday night as if the Warriors would finally take the first loss of the season.
Until, that is, Golden State’s first team stepped in to conquer that of the opposing Chicago Bulls, a 106-94 crusher that left fans in Oracle Arena overjoyed and giddy.
Two ugly-looking Warriors shot attempts followed, along with one more from Chicago. But Curry came back with a nice under-the-rim drive and rolled the ball across his fingertips and through the net for two, the score 94-89 with barely more than three minutes left.
A sloppy pass from Curry to forward Harrison Barnes at the right elbow of the three-point line sailed out of bounds. After the ugly turnover, the Bulls nailed their own two points in a similar fashion as Curry’s, though not nearly as artful.
Nikola Mirotic, the Bulls’ starting forward, summed up how imperfect the night was for both sides with a kicked ball.
The Warriors sealed the deal with an 8-1 run with two minutes left coming out of a timeout.
Warriors forward Draymond Green added two points, and three more from Barnes after he got wide open with some nice passing. And then another three from Barnes, on nearly the exact same look.
With the Warriors up 10, and 40 seconds left, there was no question that the Warriors streak was still alive, tying the 1957-58 Celtics for 14 straight to open a season after being crowned league champs.
Curry was 3-for-11 from long range, his least-efficient effort of the season from beyond the arc, and Barnes came back to equalize it, going 3-for-6 from deep.
Curry tallied 25 points, four assists and five rebounds and Barnes scored 20 to go along with nine rebounds.
The final box score won’t tell just how close this game was, with 17 ties and 18 lead changes, or that both teams held double-digit leads over the course of 48 minutes.
Warriors interim head coach Luke Walton didn’t fail to mention pregame that the Bulls were the last team to beat Golden State on their home court in January, one of only two teams to topple Golden State at Oracle since the start of their championship run.
And the Warriors might have remembered it during those decisive final two minutes. Said Walton:
“Our guys know how to win. It was very impressive. That was a good basketball game out there tonight.”
The Warriors closure of the evening was akin to something on the Discovery Channel, a lion pouncing on and dominating its prey while making it look as smooth as world-class ballet.
“That was tough, coming off of the back end of a back-to-back like that. Coming off of an emotional high. Our guys showed why we’re a championship team tonight. And a side note, guys like McAdoo, who haven’t been playing at all, coming in and giving us a big six minutes, giving guys a rest. They try and hack-a-Shaq him and he knocks down both free throws. When you’re winning, it’s important to have the little guys step in and help randomly like that.”
Without the little guys, the final score might have been much different.
The bench was going to be a factor, for better or worse.
Forward Andre Iguodala played 28 minutes, center Festus Ezeli played 23 minutes, guard Shaun Livingston played 12 minutes, guard Leandro Barbosa played nearly nine minutes, and James Michael McAdoo played just under seven minutes.
Iguodala is always a defensive factor and not generally a scorer, though his presence is always felt. His five defensive rebounds and 12 points often came during meaningful times.
Iguodala’s steal with just over three minutes left, though it didn’t result in points after the Warriors gave the ball right back, helped keep the momentum out of Chicago’s psyche. His 15-footer with 10 minutes left kept Golden State up six points and Chicago out of immediate striking range.
Walton tipped his cap:
“Andre is the best. He does so much for our team. He’s like having another coach on the floor. He play-makes, he scores when we need him to. … Even when he’s not shooting the ball well, he’s still a huge advantage for us.”
And the bench help isn’t going to be forgotten. Ezeli said:
“We’re lucky to have been able to get the win. We got a lot of contributions from everybody. That was the good part about today. Everybody that got on the court contributed for the team win.”
The team is having fun doing it, too, says Green:
“We’re enjoying it. You didn’t see us out there? … That’s the number one priority. That’s what coach Kerr is preaching.”
The Warriors’ quest for more records continues as they focus on Sunday’s 5 p.m. tilt at Denver where they can tie the 1948-49 Washington Capitols and 1993-94 Houston Rockets for an NBA-best ever 15-0 start to a season.