The Warriors seem determined to tear down one of the popular narratives relating to their stunning run of success last season and early this season.
The excellent health the Warriors enjoyed in winning the NBA championship last season has been a lot less excellent in 2015-16. Five weeks into this season, it hasn’t mattered – nor has it been enough to push them off the track of perfection.
With starting center Andrew Bogut joining starting forward Harrison Barnes on the sideline, the Warriors rolled into Air Canada Centre on Saturday and outlasted a very tenacious group of Toronto Raptors to take a 112-109 victory.
Their streaks continue on.
Most wins to start a season: a major American sports record 21.
Most consecutive wins overall: 25, third longest in major American sports.
Most consecutive road wins: A franchise-record 11.
All of which speaks to the power of their perseverance – and of having Steph Curry in a Warriors jersey. He scored a game-high 44 points, including 15 in the fourth quarter, to overcome the Raptors.
“Everybody is staying in the moment, and that’s the biggest thing for us,” Curry told reporters in Canada. “Every night, trying to lock in and focus and bring the effort. We might not play our best game, but we find a different way to win.”
[INSTANT REPLAY: Warriors survive Raptors, move to 21-0]
The Warriors trailed 98-95 with less than four minutes to play and the game was tied at 102-all with 1:25 left, when Draymond Green made two free throws to give the Warriors a lead they did not lose.
Curry made six free throws inside the final minute, while Klay Thompson (26 points, season-high six treys) added two more from the line to close it out.
“To battle through that and stay together and come out with wins, it helps us throughout these games where they take a lead in the fourth quarter and we’ve got to continue to battle back,” said Green, who finished with 16 points, nine rebounds and six assists.
The Warriors survived not only without Bogut and Barnes but also without much offense beyond Curry and Thompson, who combined to shoot 15-of-24 beyond the arc. They were hammered in the paint, 58-32, and committed 12 turnovers to six for Toronto.
“It’s going to be a struggle sometimes,” interim coach Luke Walton said. “That’s our 11th win on the road this year, so you’ve got to give the guys in there so much credit for – even in games when we don’t really have it – finding ways to win.”
There were times when it seemed Raptors All-Star Kyle Lowry simply would not allow the Warriors to march to another victory. He finished with 41, a career-high for the 10th-year point guard.
Lowry’s performance wasn’t quite enough to overcome the defending champs and, of course, Curry.
“He’s on another planet,” Green said of Curry. “I don’t know what planet it is. I don’t know if it even exists. But whatever it is, he’s somewhere else.”
The reigning MVP tied his season-high with nine 3-pointers while posting his seventh game with 40 or more points. That he outdid his opposite point guard allowed the Warriors to edge the Raptors (12-9) despite the absences of Bogut and Barnes.
It was the second time this week – the first time being their win at Utah – the Warriors had to overcome a fourth-quarter deficit inside the final four minutes.
“It’s belief, it’s faith and it’s confidence,” Curry said. “Throughout the whole playoff run last year in getting to the championship, that’s what we relied on when our backs were against the wall a couple times. We’ve learned those lessons and remembered them going into this season.”
It’s that mentality that has allowed the Warriors to grind out wins, a mentality that is never more beneficial than when two starters are watching from the bench.