The Warriors have cruised through the season. They posted the best start in league history, Stephen Curry is averaging Michael Jordan numbers, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green have looked like stars so far and they haven’t suffered major injuries. There just hasn’t been a lot of adversity affecting Golden State this year.
That has changed in the two games following the trade deadline. They are missing two key rotation big men — one out with a serious injury — they suffered an embarrassing loss at the hands of Damian Lillard and the Trail Blazers on Friday and couldn’t put away the Clippers for good on Saturday. Despite clearly being the better team, they barely escaped Staples Center with a 115-112 win thanks to a missed three-pointer by C.J. Wilcox.
It was a typical Warriors game for the majority of the night. Despite Stephen Curry struggling from the field (5 for 15), Golden State was in control early. The Clippers put together two 30-point quarters after having trouble with their scoring in the starting period but a scorching hot Klay Thompson and timely contributions from Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes kept them at bay.
The Warriors couldn’t really pull away until the fourth quarter, when they got a max lead of 18 points, but were never really threatened by a Los Angeles team that needed heroics from Jamal Crawford to keep up.
Eventually the Clippers’ desperation shots started to rim out instead of going in. With 2:27 to go, Golden State was up 16, 115-99, following a put-back dunk by Andre Iguodala. They looked en route to a blowout win.
They would never score after that while Los Angeles finished the game on a 13-0 run, coming extremely close to completing an almost inconceivable comeback.
The two teams emptied their benches and with three-pointers from Wilcox and Pablo Prigioni, the Clippers cut the deficit to three with five seconds to go, forcing Doc Rivers to bring his closers back in. That didn’t work either, as Iguodala threw a bad inbound pass that was intercepted. The Clippers had a timeout and there was enough time to make a pass, but Wilcox decided to launch an off-balance prayer that missed.
A loss, a couple of injuries and a close call are the Warriors’ version of adversity this season. If they can come away from this stretch whole — and they are so good already that they should — they will have passed a test that they hadn’t had the chance to take on so far this year. An even mentally stronger Golden State squad should terrify the rest of the league.
3 other things we learned
Carmelo Anthony can still get buckets
The Knicks got a much needed win against the Timberwolves to stay alive in the East’s playoff race. Carmelo Anthony had a throwback performance and led the way with 30 points. Melo has adjusted his game to help New York and is focusing on other areas besides getting points. Against Minnesota he contributed 11 rebounds and four assists and he’s posting career-best averages in both categories. Yet it’s the scoring that made Anthony special and something New York still needs.
Anthony reached 22,000 points for his career and is only 193 back from Clyde Drexler for 29th-most points in NBA history. If the Knicks are hoping to make a push up the standings, they will need Anthony to continue to do the little things while upping his scoring as well. It’s a lot to ask of a 31-year-old with a lot of miles in his legs but it’s likely the only way they will get an edge, as their defense is not likely to improve much.
Maybe the Hawks should have made a trade
The Hawks lost to the Bucks in heartbreaking fashion. After forcing two overtimes, they simply ran out of gas and got outscored 12-4 in the second extra period. It’s the second loss in two games after the trade deadline for Atlanta, which now is only half a game up from the sixth-place Pacers in the East. Maybe they should have made one of those trades that they were reportedly considering.
Jeff Teague, who was rumored to be on the block, played only 18 minutes and finished the game with five points in eight shots. Al Horford was better, pitching in 17 points and nine rebounds, but he wasn’t the star they need him to be to repeat their surprising performance from last season. We’ll never know why the Hawks refused to pull the trigger on this core but if things continue to go this way, they’ll might regret their decision.
Goran Dragic is playing better without Dwyane Wade
Miami was without Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade on Saturday. The opponent was a Wizards team that was coming off an impressive win over the Pistons. It didn’t matter, as Goran Dragic outplayed John Wall and carried a supporting cast that featured rookie Josh Richardson for 35 minutes to a huge 114-94 victory. Dragic flirted with a triple-double, finishing the game with 24 points, seven rebounds and eight assist in 30 minutes.
Without Wade around to slow the pace down, the Heat’s offense thrived. They had 15 fast break points, five more than their average, and Dragic had his best game of the season. For one night he was the player Miami thought they were getting when they traded for him last year. Something similar happened on Friday, when the Heat also pushed the pace and Dragic was terrific. It’s something to keep an eye on for when Wade returns because if he can’t coexist with Dragic, the Heat will have to make a tough decision in the offseason and get rid of one of them.
Play of the night
The Knicks beat the Timberwolves but Karl-Anthony Towns once again dominated Kristaps Porzingis. Not only did he block that jump-hook to the third row, but he also finished the game with 24 points, eight rebounds and four assists.
4 fun things
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Slam Dunk Contest: Aaron Gordon is the best runner-up ever
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