OAKLAND -- Those sentiments of disbelief are continuing to fade.
The Golden State Warriors, after smoothly rolling to a 101-83 victory against the visiting Boston Celtics on Saturday night, are continuing to prove they belong as a legitimate contender in the Western Conference.
The vaguely delineated tag of “for real” separates the Warriors less and less from the West’s contenders: the Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers, San Antonio Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies.
Slotted fifth in the in the Western Conference past the one-third mark of the season, and tied with Memphis at only 3.5 games back of the conference-leading Clippers, how can the Warriors continue to prove themselves?
“All we can do is just keep playing,” said David Lee, who scored 20 points in the win. “It’s not as though we’ve had 25 home games or we’ve played non-playoff teams throughout. We’ve had some really good victories; a lot of really good road wins as well.”
Golden State (21-10) improved to 13-2 against the Eastern Conference. The Warriors conclude the month of December with a 12-4 record, the team’s best month of December ever.
“We’ve proven a lot of things that Warriors teams in the past have not done: winning on the road and being able to play with the best teams in the league,” Lee said. “We’ve already proven those things wrong and we’re just going to continue to do what we do.
“(We’ll) rely on the best chemistry in the NBA and having guys that outwork other teams.”
Even future Hall-of-Famer Kevin Garnett is taking notice: “They’ve been playing well all year. We knew that this was an entirely different Golden State team.”
The Warriors may seemingly be running out of things to prove, but the next great marker will come when the Clippers, winners of their last 16 games, come to town on Wednesday.
“We’ve done all we can,” said Stephen Curry, who had a game-high 22 points. “We’ve played solid basketball the first 31 games and having 21 wins the first time since ’80 – that’s saying something. We can’t look ahead too much, all we can do is keep playing the way we are and let each game take care of itself.”
Defensively, the Warriors have held opponents to less than 40 percent shooting in four of their last five games and are currently the fourth-best rebounding team in basketball.
The Warriors shot 51.4 percent on Saturday and held the Celtics to just 36 percent shooting. The Warriors won the rebounding battle, 46-39, against the league-worst Celtics.
“You can’t outscore everybody each night,” Curry said.
The Warriors' 21-10 record continues to be the team’s best start since the 1991-92 season.
“I’m extremely proud of this group,” Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. “I know it sounds like a broken record, but I really believe that bigger things lie ahead than what we just accomplished.”
Saturday night’s plotline
After shooting just 42.5 percent in Friday’s win, the Warriors didn’t take long to heat up against Boston in the second game of the home back-to-back.
The Warriors shot as high as 80 percent from the field midway through the first quarter and were shooting 55.6 percent at halftime with a 57-40 lead. Harrison Barnes scored 10 of his 15 points in the first quarter and finished the half at 13 points on 3-for-4 three-point shooting.
Boston trailed by double-figures most of the night except for a brief moment of cutting it to as close as eight points early in the fourth quarter.
Rajon Rondo didn’t play for Boston, sitting with a bruised right hip. The Warriors starting backcourt didn’t miss his defense, taking advantage for a combined 53 points from Curry, Thompson and Jack.
Curry scored his 22 points on 8-for-14 shooting and added nine assists, though he did commit five turnovers on misguided passes. Curry did play some defense of his own, picking up three steals and two blocks. Festus Ezeli had a career-high five blocks.
Thompson scored 13 points, including 3-for-6 from three-point range. The second-year shooter has connected on three or more from long distance in six of his last seven games.
It seemed like it might be a rare night when the Warriors didn’t need the scoring of Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry. With four starters in double-figures, and Jack with just two points and one assist in the first half, it appeared that they could stand a light night from the bench tandem that has been so good.
But when it came down the stretch, and the Warriors were looking to maintain their lead, Jack contributed with big shots and finished with 14 points and four assists. Landry finished with just three points but contributed seven rebounds.
Jackson talks coaching pressures
Warriors coach Mark Jackson addressed a question from the Boston media in his pregame interview regarding any pressure that comes with taking the non-traditional path directly to becoming a head coach, similar to Celtics coach Doc Rivers.
“I don’t care about that, I don’t get caught up in it,” Jackson responded. “It never meant anything to me. At the end of the day, you win in this league with talent.
“All I wanted to do was have an opportunity. I said it before, if I would have never coached a day in my life, I would have died and been extremely happy and satisfied. I’m a man with tremendous faith, but I knew that if the opportunity came, I knew it would take place. I am not a failure, and I’ll never be a failure. I’m about winning and I’m about the winning spirit. And I am about glorifying God. So, I had no concerns.”
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