The Warriors are the best team in the NBA.
It’s early, yes. And maybe Andre Iguodala is right and they’ve had a favorable schedule, too — some easy opponents, no back-to-backs through nine games, and plenty of home games.
But this 8-1 is no fluke. The Warriors have the most points, the best defense, the best net rating, the most 3-pointers, and the most assists in the NBA so far this campaign.
These Dubs look like the Dubs of old — the shock-the-NBA Warriors of 2014-15.
And nothing says the good times are here again quite like the reprise of the Warriors’ best friend during their dynastic years: the blow-you-out third quarter.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr is giving one hell of a halftime speech, because the Dubs are once again the NBA’s best team in the third quarter this season, posting a net rating (points margin per 100 possessions) of 31.
That’s nearly double the second-best team.
Sunday, against an admittedly bad Rockets team, the Warriors went on a 20-3 run to close the third quarter.
The lineup that did the damage was one the Warriors were using for the first time Sunday.
Steph Curry, Damion Lee, Gary Payton II, Draymond Green and Nemanja Bjelica played less than four minutes together to close the quarter.
But given their success, it won’t be the last time they play together.
Not after it posted an offensive rating of 216 and a defensive rating of 28.
Small sample size? Absolutely. But that lineup felt every bit like they had a net rating of 188 Sunday.
The Warriors are a team predicated on streaky scoring and a steady defense.
Payton, Green, and Bjelica provided that defense (and a bit of scoring). Curry, Lee, and Bjelica, again, provided the buckets.
Oh, and Payton had this dunk.
These Gary Payton II dunks are getting out of control pic.twitter.com/fzMfDTcE99
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) November 8, 2021
This is a lineup with some serious potential, unlocked by Payton, who is emerging as a two-way stud for a Warriors team that didn’t even know it needed him.
The value of competence and a few moments of brilliance a month cannot be overstated.
Otto Porter Jr. and Bjelica have provided just that to the Warriors so far this season.
And Sunday night, they both provided moments of brilliance.
Porter’s three straight 3-pointers in the second quarter were a huge momentum shift in the game — a solo 9-0 run that was much-needed for a team that was dragging with fouls and the apathy that comes along with playing a bunch of children.
Bjelica’s great drives and 3-pointers in the third quarter were the sparks that opened the game up entirely for the Dubs in the third.
“Otto and Beli have just given us a totally different dimension from really anything we’ve had since I’ve been here,” Kerr said after the game.
Neither player is perfect, but the Warriors might just have the best bench in the NBA, and Kerr deserves credit. He’s getting weird with lineups as of late — and weird is working.
Here’s to a lost rivalry
There was a time, not long ago, when Warriors-Rockets was the best show in the NBA — a true rivalry in a sport where that kind of adversarial energy is rare and all too often fake.
It simply did not get any better than these two teams, locking horns in May. The crowds were full and totally engaged. The nation’s eyes affixed.
It was the peak of sports.
Because there was hatred. Legitimate hatred.
The Rockets hated the Warriors because they kept stealing wins out from under them. They saw the Warriors as showboats, false idols.
The Warriors hated the Rockets because they thought they played a style that was antithetical to the spirit of the sport. They saw the Rockets as joyless. No, worse: They were cheaters and whiners, hypocrites, too. The Warriors loved shutting them up.
Watching back some of the great matchups between these two teams — Game 7 of the West Finals in 2018 and Game 6 of the semifinals in 2019 — it became clear that it’ll probably never be that good for the Warriors — and perhaps the NBA — again.
These games were so much fun. A serious playoff rivalry in front of a full, engaged house is the absolute ace stuff. https://t.co/ocwZZlq3uP
— Dieter Kurtenbach (@dieter) November 8, 2021
This Warriors team is good. They’ll play in the postseason. But the Rockets won’t be there. Even if Houston finds a way back in the years to come, it wouldn’t be the same.
I wonder if Golden State will be able to create this kind of real, authentic dislike in the years to come. I doubt the Lakers and Dubs can play enough to create something of worth.
Maybe the Clippers can. Maybe we have to settle for the Grizzlies.
Maybe it’s no one.
No matter what the case is, let’s remember how great this Warriors-Rockets rivalry was. It might have been a once-in-a-lifetime thing.