BROOKLYN, N.Y. -- The Warriors' matchup against the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday night was supposed to be a litmus test for Golden State.
It was a game that was supposed to answer most of -- if not all of -- the current questions surrounding the Warriors. Is their (then) league-best 11-2 record legit? Do they have what it takes to beat other top-tier teams? Does their defense deserve to be ranked No. 1 in the NBA?
Well, their 117-99 blowout victory over the Nets answered all of those questions. And the answer to all three is the same: Yes, yes and yes. Warriors basketball is back.
If you need any further proof, just look to the stands -- both at home and away games. If you were just listening to Tuesday’s game without knowing where it was taking place, you could have assumed it was at Chase Center. But they were 2,924 miles away.
“MVP” and “Waarrriiioorrrsss” chants rained down at Barclays Center as Golden State whooped the Nets, even though the home team has an MVP-caliber player themselves. It was reminiscent of the atmosphere when the Warriors were in their heydays.
“Throughout that run, we turned a lot of arenas into that, during those three years, especially,” Steph Curry said. “It’s fun, for us.”
“It’s fun to be back in the spotlight again. Our team is really enjoying being back here,” head coach Steve Kerr said. “The way the crowd energizes when Steph starts rising up from 30 feet, it’s everywhere. It happened in Charlotte the other night. It happened (Tuesday). I think the fact that our team is good again and has a good record adds to what Steph brings to the table every night in terms of his skill and the showmanship.”
If you need more evidence that the Warriors are back, look at what they’re doing on the court.
The argument that what the Warriors are doing isn't a true representation because of their strength of schedule is no longer sound.
Sure, they have had a lighter schedule -- the last few weeks have been the 10th-easiest stretch in the NBA. But the Warriors would have lost several of those games a season ago. The two they lost, one against the Memphis Grizzlies and one against the Charlotte Hornets, were lost by three and four-point margins, respectively.
And the games the Warriors have won, they've dominated.
They beat their “soft” schedule by an average of 13 points per game. The Warriors also are in the top five of nearly every statistical category. They lead the league in assists, points, field goal percentage, rebounds, defensive rating and adjusted net rating, while they have the third-best offense.
In the past, there has been some give and take with the Warriors. If their offense was on fire, they tend to lack a bit on defense, and vice versa. But recently, the Warriors have been hitting on both ends of the floor.
In Brooklyn, they held the Nets to under 100 points and allowed them to score just 42 points in the second half. Kevin Durant scored 10 points below his season average and went 0-for-8 from the floor in the third quarter thanks to Draymond Green’s defense. Meanwhile, Curry nailed nine 3-pointers on his way to 37 points against the Net’s top-10 defense.
When Curry sat in the third quarter due to foul trouble, the second unit took over and turned up the heat. They continued the tradition of Golden State absolutely dominating in that third period. They’ve outscored teams by 124 points in third across their 14 games so far this season.
The Chicago Bulls, who the Warriors played last Friday, are a top-10 team in both offense and defense. Yet the Warriors also routed them.
Now, it’s very early in the season, and a lot will change between now and the playoffs. Kyrie Irving could come back for the Nets. The Los Angeles Lakers’ chemistry can improve. The Denver Nuggets will get Jamal Murray back.
Things will change for the Warriors too, mainly adding Klay Thompson and James Wiseman back to an already incredibly deep and talented rotation. And even before they get back, the Warriors have some areas to improve on that will make them better.
"Coach is talking about the steps we need to take to truly be a championship-caliber team,” Curry said. “There are some things (Tuesday) -- dumb fouls, a couple of turnovers, losing focus a little bit offensively at times. That's the standard we have to hold ourselves to no matter how excited everyone gets about Warriors basketball being back.
“Me, Andre (Iguodala), Klay (Thompson), (Kevon Looney), we all know what the playoffs are like and how the margin of error shrinks dramatically. All those points are going to matter, even in a win like tonight where you have to lock in … we still got a lot to prove.”
If the Warriors still have a lot to prove, you better buckle up. Their early-season dominance isn’t going anywhere, and it’s only going to grow.
Heading into the year, there was consensus the Warriors would be good to start out and then be a title contender when the Splash Brothers were reunited for the second half of the season. Some thought this year would end a lot like last season.
But here we are in mid-November sans Thompson, and classic Warriors basketball is back.