When Neil Armstrong said something about one small step for man, he could have been talking about the Golden State Warriors.
The Bay’s team Tuesday night set the record for most consecutive wins to open an NBA season without a loss. At 16-0, the Warriors entrenched themselves with the likes of Armstrong, the Yankees and even Bill Russell after their 111-77 win over the Los Angeles Lakers.
It’s strangely unfortunate that the game was over eight minutes after tip-off. The two-win Lakers (2-12), with the worst record in the West and second-worst in the league, provided little challenge for the defending champs.
Halfway through the third quarter, Golden State was up 23 points and were watching scoreboard videos meant for fans during timeouts, not checking with assistant coach Ron Adams about their defensive strategy, nor hydrating.
The game was over, and while they didn’t say it, the Warriors knew it.
Interim head coach Luke Walton said:
“It feels great, especially the way we did it. During the streak, we had some slippage and had some games that we didn’t play like ourselves. But to actually break the record on a night where we were sharing the ball and taking care of the ball, and not turning it over.”
A total reverse of riches, the Lakers looked like the millennial Warriors, a team coached by Dave Cowens until he was fired, and finished the season with only 17 wins.
Golden State held Los Angeles to 17 points in the third quarter, while the Warriors continued to pour it on with 35 points over that same 12-minute stretch.
Lakers head coach Byron Scott said:
“They’re a better team than we are. It’s pretty much as simple as that. They are real champions.”
Golden State’s reserve unit, who Walton considers the best in the league, blasted Los Angeles on both phases of the game, putting what was left in the books.
Point guard Stephen Curry finished with 24 points on 47 percent shooting and 33 percent from long range, with nine assists and a plus-36 rating.
Forward Draymond Green scored 18 points with seven boards and five assists. The Warriors starters combined for 69 points and 23 rebounds, while the reserve unit nearly duplicated their box score performance.
The bench accumulated 42 points, which has been a consistent stat for the Dubs.
Golden State beat the Memphis Grizzlies by 50 earlier this season, exhibiting their dominance over one of the better teams in the NBA. It’s all but certain the Warriors would have duplicated that if the starters remained in the game for a few more minutes.
With the way the Warriors are playing, it wouldn’t be a stretch to consider this squad the most dominant of any in American sports history.
Golden State is embarking on a soft stretch of their schedule, though a seven game road trip is a part of it, they face Phoenix, Sacramento, Utah, Charlotte, Milwaukee, Boston and Brooklyn, with Indiana and Toronto mixed in.
It’s not unrealistic to expect the Warriors’ undefeated streak to last into the 20-or-more realm.
Warriors general manager Bob Myers hates to lose — so much so, that he is happier to not lose rather than to win. His competitive spirit was on full display, and he wasn’t soaking it in like some might expect.
He was drinking water after the game, not champagne, and though he was in a joking mood, Myers wasn’t focusing on the record. Regarding the record, Myers said:
“I guess it puts it into perspective. I don’t know if it’s tonight, but throughout the whole thing, they’ve enjoyed it. … I don’t know that we expected to win 16, but I think they came in thinking they could win.”
The expectation, even for arguably the most competitive mind on the Warriors staff, wasn’t to open the season with 16 straight wins. And, Myers said, especially not without head coach Steve Kerr, who has been mostly away from the team while he rehabs a back injury:
“If you had told me that you would be without Steve, what would your record be, and this was one of the choices, it would have gotten zero votes. Certainly wouldn’t get my vote. To do it requires players to step up, a staff to step up.”
Myers said that, if there was a damper on the night, it was Kerr’s physical absence.
Kerr was around in spirit, though, with Walton as the medium. His four principles — competition, compassion, joy and mindfulness — were mentioned by Walton in the locker room before the game.
“I think he learned that from (Spurs head coach Gregg) Popovich, really. He keeps things in perspective. Players have lives beyond these walls, and beyond basketball courts, so he reminds them to have fun and appreciate what they have and enjoy it.”
The core principles Kerr relies on, and Walton mentioned, shine through the locker room. Green is constantly laughing. Center Andrew Bogut is in a similar category.
The team, which spends the majority of their time together, gets along seamlessly. There are no egos involved.
And, much to the surprise of many within the Warriors’ sphere, the defending champs are even better than they could have expected.
“I don’t think we’ve seen it as a possibility from the start, but the last few games we locked in and said ‘hey, we’re right here to make NBA history. Why not?’ So we locked in and focused on it and were able to do it.”
“It’s a very special night. You’ve got to celebrate it because you’re obviously a piece of history now, and we want to continue the streak. We feel like we can. But you can’t be content because it’s only November.”
Golden State capped the 20 percent mark of the season with their 16th straight win, and while they’d like to continue it, are now in a mode where they find it easier to just play basketball without conversing over records.
Thompson referred to the upcoming seven-game road trip as “challenging,” and that coming away with five wins will be considered successful.
The longest win streak in NBA history belongs to the 1971-72 Lakers, who beat 33 consecutive challengers and went on to be crowned league champions.
The road trip is a different animal, and Walton said he will be resting players more, especially on back to back games. They have one coming up, the team plays the Raptors on a Saturday night, and then travels to Brooklyn to play the Nets 24 hours later.
It will be tough to remain undefeated over that 13-day stretch, but these days, it’s hard to count the Warriors out.