Draymond Green and Stephen Curry were finishing their pregame stretches in front of the scorer’s table Wednesday night at the United Center when they heard a familiar sound.
The Bulls’ well-known introduction music, “Sirius” by Alan Parsons Project, began playing as public address announcer Tommy Edwards prepared to reel off the names of the five starting Bulls.
It was then that Curry, getting goosebumps, looked at Green. And Green, with a smile, darted back at Curry.
“I don't know what the song's called. I call it the Jordan song. Every time I hear it I think, 'No. 23, Michael Jordan!' is about to be said. That’s what the song is to me," Green said. "I looked at Steph and I’m just like ‘Yo,’ and he looked back like, ‘Man.’ That song gets me every time."
Only time will tell whether the Golden State Warriors will topple one of the league's most historic records, the 72 wins the 1996 Bulls accomplished that helped make "the Jordan song" recognizable to an entire generation of basketball fans. But Luke Walton and the Warriors aren't concerned with breaking that record. Yet. For the defending champs, every night is a chance to get better, not move one win closer to 73 wins.
On this night they accomplished both, dazzling those in attendance - including more than a fair share wearing No. 30 Curry jerseys - with yet another textbook performance in a 125-94 victory over the Bulls.
As they have done all season, pushing the Warriors to an NBA-best 39-4 record, the usual suspects were at their best. Curry scored in a variety of ways, including his patented 28-footers, contorting layups and pull-up jumpers. Green led the charge on fast breaks, dishing out nine of the Warriors' 38 assists that helped lead to 21 transition points. Klay Thompson drained three 3-pointers and played staunch defense on Jimmy Butler, who scored just four points in the first half. Andrew Bogut grabbed six of the Warriors' 12 offensive rebounds, and the bench scored 49 points.
They exposed mismatches - Pau Gasol had one point on 0-for-8 shooting while being guarded by Green - moved the ball seamlessly - 38 assists were two off their season-high - and lived with allowing Derrick Rose, who scored 29 points, to score without initiating much real offense; Rose finished with two assists.
"The things we said we needed to get back to, we’ve done," Green said. "And we’ve just got to continue to build on them."
At Wednesday's shootaround Gasol admitted that if the Bulls allowed Golden State to "play their game...they could tear us apart."
The Bulls played as the aggressor early, forcing the Warriors into five well-contested 3-pointers that all missed. An early four-point Bulls lead had the United Center crowd of 23,152 - a season-high - buzzing at the thought that perhaps the Warriors had taken the foot off the gas. They were playing their seventh road game in their last nine contests, had reclaimed their title as league's best following a drubbing of LeBron James and the Cavaliers in Cleveland and may have been prone to a letdown.
Not this team.
Curry went toe-to-toe with Rose, who scored 10 of the Bulls' first 12 points, by adding 10 of his own and dishing out six assists for the Warriors, who shot 60 percent despite missing six of their first seven shots. Curry leading the charge began a 20-4 run to close the opening stanza after a Jimmy Butler jumper tied the game at 14 apiece. The offensive flow came as a result of clamped down defense, as the Bulls missed nine of their final 10 shots in the quarter and committed four turnovers, which Golden State turned into eight easy points.
And when Walton, still serving as head coach while Steve Kerr recovers from two offseason back surgeries, went to the bench the production didn't skip a beat. Shaun Livingston took advantage of the smaller Aaron Brooks guarding him and scored six points in the second, as the Warriors pushed the lead to as many as 21 early in the quarter. The Bulls cut into the 19-point halftime deficit in the third quarter, using 10-2 run to pull within 11, which against the Warriors felt like an accomplishment in itself.
The Warriors' lull in the third took another potential downturn when Green was accidentally struck in the face by Taj Gibson and was forced to leave the game. The bench came in to end the third quarter and helped push the lead back up, highlighted by a Leandro Barbosa underhanded alley-oop to Andre Iguodala, who finished in transition with a two-handed slam. The Warriors' bench outscored the Bulls' 49-35, and six of the seven Warriors reserves finished with a positive +/- rating.
"It’s huge because the starters, we built a solid lead but they came in and built on it, which is huge when everybody’s clicking, every line that we have out there," said Curry. "Where they take the energy we set and run with it and really keep the pressure on the opposing team. Just a total team effort."
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Green returned to begin the fourth quarter and handed out four assists in the period, finishing with six points, 10 rebounds and nine helpers. Thompson, who had been quiet through three quarters, scored 11 of his 20 points and Curry sealed the game with a trademark step back 3-pointer, his 25th points of the night to go with 11 assists. Less than two minutes later both teams emptied their benches.
It was another sign that the Warriors, who began the year with an NBA-record 28 straight wins, are fully back on track. Two losses the previous week, to Denver and Detroit, certainly weren't cause for concern. But they also didn't accomplish Green's goal of getting better each night. On the heels of a 34-point win in Cleveland, the Warriors didn't let up on the final game of their road trip and put together one of their most impressive of their 38 wins this season.
And in the house M.J. built, in the building that historic 72-win team set records and won a title, the Warriors looked the part of a team that could accomplish the same.
"We’re a mature team and we kind of have that chip back on our shoulder," Green said. "I think it kind of fell off. We’ve been playing with that the last two games, and it’s exciting because before these last two games, I don’t think the last seven games before that. We weren’t really playing that well. The last two games have been pretty fun."