Everything clicked for the NBA champion Golden State Warriors last season. Their combination of shooting, speed, and defensive intensity led the team to one of the best regular season records in league history. Despite the fact that they maintained almost everyone from that title-winning formula a year ago, people expected the Warriors to suffer a setback this season. It made sense, seeing as Golden State plays in the loaded Western Conference. However, the Warriors may actually be even better in 2015-16.
Need proof? Just look at their utter dominance to begin the year. In starting 8-0, Golden State has managed wins of 16, 20, 14, 50 (yes, 50), 4, 15, 9, and 14. Only one team has had a legitimate chance — that being the Clippers — to knock the Warriors off. With how good they’ve been, it’s worth wondering if Golden State can make more history before the calendar even transitions to 2016.
What we’re talking about is the NBA record for wins to begin a season, which is currently at 15, set by the 1948 Washington Capitols and the 1993 Houston Rockets. With their schedule over the next 8 games, along with the momentum they have enhancing their high level of play, the 2015 Warriors just might surpass that record. Let’s break down their chances of doing it.
Over the next two weeks, Golden State will play 8 games to determine if they do break the record for most consecutive wins to start the season. During that stretch, the team will only have one set of back-to-back games to deal with. Half of the games will be on their home court, where they are almost unstoppable. Several of the matchups, however, will force the Warriors to face off against some of the top teams in the league.
It all begins tonight when they face off with the Memphis Grizzlies on the road. Nine days ago, the Warriors cruised to a 50-point victory over the Grizzlies (the worst loss in Memphis’s franchise history), making it appear that Memphis simply can’t handle them. Really, the struggles for the Grizzlies stretch beyond that loss. A playoff team from a year ago has stumbled to a 3-5 start. While they will likely turn it around and be competitive in the West, another loss will likely head Memphis’s way.
In the second game of a back-to-back on Thursday, Golden State will travel again to play the Minnesota Timberwolves. This talented, young team shows signs of being very competitive this season, so the Warriors will have to bring their A-game if they want to win this one on the road. After Minnesota, the Warriors will get the Brooklyn Nets (currently win-less) and Toronto Raptors (pretty good) at home before a huge early-season contest against one of the other top teams in the Western Conference.
The Los Angeles Clippers gave the Warriors their biggest challenge of the season last week. Come November 19, LA will get another shot to prove that they can beat the defending champs — and the Clippers would love nothing more than to end Golden State’s potential pursuit of perfection. With Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan, they will always present a huge test for any team they face. This stands as the single major road block in the Warriors’ pursuit of this historic 16-0 mark.
If they can survive LA, “Dub City” will be at 13-0 with home games against the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers and one road contest versus the Denver Nuggets. With that, getting past the Clippers could very well give the team the 16-game mark.
Analyzing the Warrior’s schedule is easy enough. Some of their matchups (maybe all of them) will present major challenges and potentially cause the team to slip up before reaching 16 consecutive wins. What is more important, however, is realizing just how talented and how deep their roster really is.
It obviously starts with Stephen Curry. The man is playing on another level right now, even coming off his MVP season last year. He leads in scoring at 32.4 points per game, including one mammoth 50-point performance already. His shooting is off the charts as well. Even with a talented roster, Curry is still the most important and most valuable player Golden State has.
His partner in three-point shooting crime, Klay Thompson, is also performing at a high level to begin the season. Then you have Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green doing their thing, which probably leaves the team with enough talent to be more than competitive. However, their bench may be what sets them apart.
It’s like the Warriors have a second starting five coming off the bench. Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Marreese Speights, and Festus Ezeli allow the team to have almost no drop-off in production when the starters come off the floor. It keeps everyone fresh and keeps their opponents on their toes. Few teams have this luxury and maybe no other team has a bench as strong as the Warriors.
In a season that was supposed to be the “re-rise” of the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder in the West, the Warriors are proving that last season wasn’t a fluke and they still may be at the top of the conference (of course, it’s early). They may very well break the most consecutive wins record, but their accomplishments could stretch beyond that this season.
How does repeat NBA champion sound? If they stay healthy, it wouldn’t be a smart move to bet against that potential achievement.