OAKLAND – In each of the past four seasons for the Warriors, there was a point at which hoops harmony was achieved among stars, role players and coaches. For this season, that time is now.
After winning three consecutive games on the road, they now play 11 games – seven at home – over the next 22 days. Aside from an 85-minute flight to Salt Lake City next week, the Warriors never leave the Pacific Time zone.
Above all, the return of Draymond Green on Monday for the game against Minnesota gives the Warriors the benefit of good overall health.
“We’re starting to play a little better,” Green says. “We’re getting healthy. We’re (at home) for the rest of the month, except two games. So it’s a good time for us to make a run.”
Finding a rhythm during the holidays is almost an annual tradition since Steve Kerr became coach in 2014.
It was around this time last year that the Warriors – mostly on the road and mostly without Stephen Curry – compiled a season-high 11-game win streak that on Dec. 22 put them at 26-6, resulting in their highest win percentage (.813) of the season.
The previous season’s zenith came in November, which they closed out by winning 12 in a row. In 2015-16, a 24-0 start allowed the Warriors to run away from the league and get to an NBA-record 73 wins. In Kerr’s first season, 2014-15, a 16-game streak spanning mid-November to mid-December took them from 5-2 to 21-2.
Following a 10-1 opening with an 8-8 stretch, the Warriors enter Monday at 18-9 (.667 percentage), tied with Oklahoma City for the best record in the Western Conference. OKC won 10 of 11 earlier this season. Denver recently had a seven-gamer snapped. The Clippers had an 11-2 stretch, the Grizzlies a 7-1 stretch, the Lakers a 7-1 stretch and then a 5-1 stretch.
Less than a month ago, the Trail Blazers were atop the conference for brief period.
The Mavericks, for crying out loud, have won 10 of 13.
“A lot of teams have made their runs,” Green says. “We kind of started off hot, and then we hit this rough patch. But that’s OK. It’s a good time for us to make run, close out this calendar year strong and go into the New Year rolling.”
Stephen Curry is back and still lighting it up. Kevin Durant has emerged, with a vengeance, from four catatonic performances, punishing defenders by averaging 32.8 points on 52.3-percent shooting over the past nine games. After a wretched start, with one notable exception, Klay Thompson is shooting triples at his customary rate: 41.3 percent over the last nine games.
Kevon Looney is been solid in the middle and the bench is confident, well-defined and productive.
And one game after the Warriors played playoff-intensity defense in a win at Milwaukee, here comes Draymond, with DeMarcus Cousins only weeks away.
“With Draymond coming back, it allows us to get back to where we’re most comfortable,” Kerr says. “Which is with the ball really moving, our shooters screening for each other, trying to cause havoc off the ball, force tough decisions from the defense and more transition.”
The circumstances are in their favor. After the revived Timberwolves (13-13 after a 3-8 start) come the Raptors (21-7), who own the best record in the league. Following a trip to Sacramento (13-12), the Warriors get Memphis (15-10), Utah (13-14 but dangerous), Dallas (13-11) and the Clippers (16-9).
All this before LeBron James and the Lakers (16-10) come to Oracle Arena on Christmas Day, after which the Warriors play Portland (15-11) twice in two days before the month ends, mercifully, on New Year’s Eve in Phoenix (4-22).
With the ridiculous amount of cannibalism anticipated in the West, it’s conceivable that no team in the conference will win 80 percent of its games or approach 65 wins.
If there is one team with the goods to do it, it’s the Warriors – particularly if they play as they generally do in the weeks before the next calendar year. -30-