The search for the secrets to the Warriors’ success usually ends at Steph Curry, and with good reason. He’s the best player on the team and currently commands the NBA with more pizzazz than anyone in any of America’s four major sports.
The Warriors have been perfect. Curry, who on Monday nabbed his third Player of the Week award in six weeks, has been pretty close to the same.
Yet to focus on The Curry Show, as captivating as it is, is to miss the essence of how the Warriors have soared to a 22-0 record.
At the collective heart of this team is a fierce and unyielding desire to destroy the opponent, a ruthlessness so smooth it can be obscured by the picturesque 30-foot jumpers, the lobs thrown through the hoop and the defense that steals the composure of teams simply not able to keep up.
The Warriors crush spirits, sometimes too fast for the eye to behold, much less fully appreciate. It’s as if a clock goes off in their heads, and they start ruining folks.
“We’re never out of a game, and we’re always one little run away from putting the game away,” interim coach Luke Walton said. “We know that, and that’s why we constantly encourage our guys to be on the attack.”
The Warriors on Sunday were down five to the Nets with 3:10 left in the third quarter, only to go up seven by the end of the quarter. Brooklyn buckled, broke and lost by 16.
We’ve seen this before, most notably when the Warriors wiped out a 23-point difference last month against the Clippers at Staples Center. Still trailing by 10 with five minutes to play, the Warriors won not by one or two or four. They won by seven.
They succeeded in annihilating both the Nets and the Clips.
That’s their mentality, and it flows from Draymond Green and Curry. You see it in Andrew Bogut’s picks, in Klay Thompson’s shark-eye pull-up jumpers and even in Leandro Barbosa’s dive-bombs into interior defenses. You see it when Mo Speights, the heaviest man on the team, gets into position to draw a charge.
“We’re a very intense team – a competitive team,” Green said the other day. “We feel like we have a lot of room to grow, and we think we can be good for a long time, and that is kind of the method to our madness.”
The comeback, though, has been a pattern, if not a signature, for these Warriors. They also are a manifestation of their insistence upon winning. The Warriors last season developed a proclivity for it; there were three occasions in which they wiped out deficits of 20 or more points and walked away winners.
Now they seem to be perfecting it. Double-digit deficits mean nothing to this bunch – except a signal to get nasty on defense and to start raining treys on offense.
“Every time we step onto the court,” Walton said, “our confidence is high.”
The nuclear weapon is, of course, the 3-ball. No team in the NBA shoots it better and no team uses it to such devastating effect.
“A 3 for us is like a monster dunk for another team,” Green said.
That’s the reinvention. Remember not so long ago, when dunks used to devastate opponents, making them feel powerless? That’s what the 3-pointer, as deployed by the Warriors, is doing this season.
Curry is shooting more treys because the math tells him it’s the best way for him to kill a teams hope and spirit. Don’t be surprised.
Remember the play last March when Curry used a wicked crossover to send Clippers star Chris Paul into Taser dance at Staples? Later that night, as Curry was walking out of the arena, I asked him if there was even a small part of him that felt the least bit of pity for embarrassing one of the league’s most visible stars to such a degree that the image of Paul flailing and falling will live forever.
Curry’s answer: Not at all. He calmly added that his goal is to do whatever it takes to beat the other player and team, no matter who the opponent is. If they get embarrassed, so be it.
“That could have been me,” he said. “And I know nobody would feel sorry about it.”
There was no joy or anger in Curry’s voice, only stone-cold indifference, an approach that, like it or not, it has served the Warriors well. And there is no indication of it going away anytime soon.