OAKLAND, Calif. — The funny thing with the Golden State Warriors is that they love the funny things, the joke video clips, the needling by their coaches. Basketball, even at the highest level, the NBA, is a game to them, a chance to live it up, laugh it up and maybe because of those two factors win, win, win.
Nothing seems to bother the Warriors, not opposing teams — well, they did lose four games of their first 47 this season — not the heckling fans, the lengthy absence of their coach and normally hectic league travel schedule. They face the Knicks Sunday night at the Garden, only a few hours after beating the 76ers, 108-105, Saturday in Philadelphia.
If last year’s MVP Stephen Curry (the league’s scoring leader) is a bit off, then Klay Thompson (who had 45 Wednesday) is on. If Draymond Green (who with Curry and Thompson is an All-Star) doesn’t get a triple double, Harrison Barnes or Andre Iguodala get baskets and rebounds.
These are heady days for the team local fans call the “Dubs,” (instead of W’s). They are ahead, if barely, of the pace of the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls, who set the NBA record of 72 wins (in 82 games). They are planning to move across the Bay to $1 billion Chase Center, on the waterfront just south of the San Francisco Giants’ AT&amp;amp;T Park. They have become headline stuff in an area where for decades the headlines went to football and baseball.
When the Warriors won the championship last season, skeptics (including Clippers coach Doc Rivers) implied they were lucky if not saying it directly. Golden State didn’t have to play San Antonio in the Western Conference playoffs and it beat a Cleveland Cavaliers team without Kyrie Irving in the finals.
The Warriors shrugged and held up the trophy. This season they’ve beaten the Cavs twice, crushed them, 132-98, in Cleveland, Jan. 18, and then Monday night at the Dubs’ Oracle Arena, similarly crushed the Spurs, 129-90 (Curry had 37 and didn’t play the fourth quarter). “In every facet,” said Gregg Popovich, the San Antonio coach, “it was men against boys.”
Much of the Warriors’ success, and a great deal of their joy, can be attributed to Steve Kerr, once Michael Jordan’s teammate on the great Chicago Bulls teams of the 1990s.
Kerr replaced Mark Jackson, the onetime St. John’s and Knicks star, as coach before the 2014-15 season and went about things in a lighthearted way. Enjoy yourself was his mantra, but be prepared.
Kerr underwent back surgery twice in the recent fall, and there were complications. Unable to be on the bench, he turned things over to assistant Luke Walton, one of Bill Walton’s sons. The Warriors didn’t miss a beat or hardly a basket. They began the season with a record 28 straight victories, before dropping a game in Milwaukee where prescient, if irksome, fans wore T-shirts that read 28-1.
Walton was as hang-loose as his players and as Kerr, who returned a week ago.
“It feels like the first game of the season, which it is for me,” Kerr said. “Fortunately our team’s in a pretty good groove and hopefully we can keep it going.”
Before that, Kerr, who was out more than half the season, told the media, “I was thinking of doing like MJ [Michael Jordan] did and send a fax out that just says, ‘I’m back,’ But I don’t think faxes, do they even exist at this point? I don’t know.”
They exist. So does Stephen Curry. In pregame warm-ups he dribbles a basketball simultaneously with each hand, then throws up jump shots from near the halfcourt line. He’s been known to make a few from that distance, from even farther, in games.
His show and the fact the Dubs have a 40-game home win streak (the last home loss was Jan. 27, 2015 to the Bulls) have kept Oracle sold out every enjoyable game.
CHASING THE BULLS
Led by Michael Jordan, the 1995-96 Bulls went 72-10 to set the NBA record for most wins and best winning percentage (.878). How the Warriors compare to the Bulls after 47 games:
Warriors 43-4 .915