Every now and then one is likely to chance upon the phrase “well oiled machine” when reading a team sports piece just as you are about to. The phrase fits perfectly with the analogous machine that is under the microscope of painstaking observation. Often a car is used to describe a team’s balance, poise and effectiveness in delivering results and consistent basis.
An area of matter stilted on four bags of pressurized air, countless conductors and well crafted body makes a car the ultimate invention that transcends centuries. In the NBA, the well crafted, oiled and balanced team that stands aloof the chasing pack is the Golden State Warriors who so happen to be the defending champions. The team has been an epitome of balance as they paced the league in record time at both ends of the court.
The Warriors rode the best defensive rating 101.4 and the second best offensive rating 111.6 (according to basketballreference.com) to end a 40 year championship drought. All-Stars Steph Cuury and Klay Thompson made good on their ‘splash brothers’ tag by splashing long threes all over opponents. These brothers work in tandem so much their productivity flips south. According to ESPN.com, Thompson is shooting 49 percent from the field when he’s on the court with Curry and 27 percent when he’s on the floor without Curry this year. Draymond Green made the unlikely transition from an early second round pick in 2012 to a Defensive Player of the Year candidate and not forgetting his Most Improved Player nomination.
The “Big Three” concept have brought multiple championships to many teams over the years. The Boston Celtics built a dynasty on Bill Russell, John Havlicek and Bob Cousy, Chicago Bulls won six championships with Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman. Perhaps the most defining statements of the “big three” model were those in Boston and Miami where after under performing many years, both teams became instant champions after constructing the ultimate basketball “hydra” Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen joined Paul Pierce to Boston a record 17th title whereas LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade joined forces to win back to back championships for Miami Heat.
However, this big three was special in a way because none were projected to be this good. Steph was a sensation at Davidson but wasn’t tipped to be the Most Valuable Player in 2014. Klay Thompson wasn’t the polished defender and sniper he is now. There is also the savvy collection of veterans who cut their teeth through many years piling miles on their odometer.
In 24 games through the season, Golden State was unbeaten and riding downhill at par to equal and even better the regular season record held by Jordan’s “unstoppabulls” in 1996. However, Harrison Barnes missed the game, Klay Thompson just returned from injury and playing a second game in less than 24 hours resulted in the team’s first loss. Milwaukee young,springy,athletic Bucks handed the defeat as they have done before in the league.
The team halted Los Angeles Lakers 33 game winning streak in 1972. Steph and company soaked up the pain and fury from seeing the run ended and dealing with the Bucks’ over the top celebration as they laid siege to the detractors esecially in the Christmas showdown with last year finalist Cleveland Cavaliers.
But as the calendar grounded out 2015, it just had to leave with a bang. Ghana had already experienced its last bang for the year following Wisa’s rash decision to show off his manhood before a packed arena. The Dallas Mavericks did their part by registering a 114-91 win over the Warriors. Disclaimer: this win was without Curry who couldn’t feature due to a lower left leg injury, Leandro Barbosa and Festus Ezeli. Two major injuries, two losses; are the Warriors capable of upstaging the Bulls 72 win, 10 losss record in 1996?
Many in the offseason believed the Warriors were “lucky” to have avoided major injuries which was the main catalyst in their trophy wielding season. Los Angeles Clippers Head Coach Doc Rivers, used “lucky” to describe the Warriors-Maresse Speights injury aside- injury free run to last season’s title.
A strong case can be presented in Rivers defence as the Warriors win included stops at injury-riddled teams like Memphis Grizzlies (with Mike Conley operating not at a 100 percent rate), Houston Rockets (with a not so fit Dwight Howard and injured Power Forwards Donatas Montiejunas and Terence Jones) and Cleveland Cavaliers who didn’t have kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.
At this pace, the Warriors (29 wins and two losses) will top the regular season record and with a relatively easy schedule through half of of January, the mission will still be on the radar. Aside the very good but inconsistent Houston Rockets, Golden State get to play against the improved Hornets, Miami Heat and Detroit Pistons plus sub par teams like the Lakers, Trailblazers and Denver Nuggets.
It all gets tricky again as they face the Cavaliers and the Bulls January 19 and 21 respectively before All-Star weekend. The Warriors must revisit the NBA ‘gods’ for injury protection like they did last year if they are going to ever have a chance of immortalizing themselves in history.A quick dive into the stats world once again reveals a shocking phenomenon. Per Espn.com, the 1,043 minutes the Warriors have played with Stephen Curry on the floor, they’ve outscored their opponents by 482 points. In the 460 minutes without him, they’ve been outscored by 101, including tonight’s 23-point loss.