With wins coming at record pace, illustrated by a cascade of preposterous numbers, embellished by natural basketball beauty and flair, this Warriors season continues to outperform its wonderful original script.
This team has gotten into a rhythm, rarely broken, of entertaining with jaw-dropping, mind-bending improvisation.
Such was the case once again Monday night in Atlanta, where a 102-92 comeback victory over the Hawks was at once a cautionary tale and a richly rewarding experience.
“I liked our response,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “We gave up the lead. They were on fire in their home building. Everything was going against us, and we maintained our poise and pulled away down the stretch. It was a really good win.”
With Steph Curry (game-high 36 points) dealing and the defense blanketing the Hawks, the Warriors sprinted out to a big lead, 19 at the half and 23 in the third quarter. Atlanta snapped awake, coming back to take a four-point lead in the opening minute of the fourth quarter.
Sensing danger but exhibiting no anxiety, the Warriors regrouped and finished with a flurry, outscoring the Hawks 23-10 over the final 10 minutes.
“They made shots,” Curry said. “They took some tough ones and made a lot of 3's. That’s one of the keys against them. You have to take them off the 3-point line. We contested them, but they just made them.
“When we’re not at home we expect (a run from the other team). We try not to let it happen, but we’re not surprised if they get hot and make (some shots).”
[INSTANT REPLAY: Warriors escape Atlanta with 50th win]
With the Warriors cutting and passing and shooting the Hawks into slow submission, Atlanta’s run brought an element of drama to what could have been routine.
It forced the Warriors to dig in for the win, and boy did they. Andrew Bogut defended the rim (three fourth-quarter blocks) and Curry and Klay Thompson punched up the offense, combining for 21 points over the final 11 minutes.
“They got the crowd into it, but I always tell our guys it’s a 48-minute game,” Kerr said. “And for us, as long as we take care of the ball, that’s a lot of possessions that the other team has to guard us. I knew we’d score eventually, but it was on the other end that turned it around.”
The win was the Warriors’ 50th this season, making them the fastest team to reach that mark in league history. It’s the seventh time in franchise history that the Warriors have reached that level – but the first time they’ve done it three seasons in a row.
Pardon us and pardon them, but 50-5 seems like a record from a fairy tale.
“That’s pretty special,” said Thompson, who totaled 27 points, his fourth straight game with at least 20. “We’ve got to keep it going, though.”
The season has indeed been a series of win streaks occasionally interrupted by a single loss. It has resulted, with roughly seven weeks left in the regular season, in some fairly comfortable breathing room. The Warriors are at least 10 games better than everybody in the NBA, other than the Spurs, who are 3 1/2 games back.
“We’re on the right track,” Curry said. “We’re not complacent. We’re trying to get better and find different ways to win games. We’re staying in the moment. We have great chemistry, and we’re relying on that. It’s a special group, and we understand the potential we have, but not get ahead of ourselves.
“Fifty wins is great, but we’ve got to keep plugging away and staying hungry, because nobody wants to talk about that in June.”
Fifty is nice but hardly satisfying. Not when the goal is the No. 1 seed and a back-to-back championship season. Not when 60 wins are so accessible and 70 wins are well within reach. They’d have to go 23-4 to snap the record 72, set 20 seasons ago by the Chicago Bulls.
Curry rang up his league-leading 25th game of at least 30 points, adding eight assists and six rebounds. He drained five more 3-pointers, pushing to 126 his streak of consecutive games with at least one trey. He needs one to tie the record (Hawks guard Kyle Korver, 127) and two to break it.
The numbers keep coming, and so do the thrills. The extraordinary is, for these Warriors, becoming the norm. It’s impossible to imagine a better way to go through a regular season.