Warriors chase history, teams chase Warriors in stretch run
TORONTO (AP) The Golden State Warriors are chasing history. Everyone else in the NBA is chasing the Warriors.
The defending champions have been so dominant that they could already be a 50-win team this weekend. And unless opponents start figuring out a way to slow Stephen Curry and the league’s most potent offense, they could be the best team ever by the time they’re done.
Curry and fellow All-Stars Klay Thompson and Draymond Green took time out for fun in the first All-Star Game held outside the U.S., where Curry tossed in the final points in the highest-scoring game ever with a 42-footer to give the West a 196-173 victory.
It won’t be long before they get serious again.
“Yeah, obviously, Thursday, Friday, when games start up, put our game face back on and figure out how we’re going to try to finish out the season strong and go after another championship,” Curry said.
They are 48-4 and will bring an 11-game winning streak into Portland on Friday when their season resumes. Golden State could reach 50 wins - for many clubs, the mark of a very good regular season - with a victory Saturday against the Los Angeles Clippers in what’s become perhaps the league’s testiest rivalry.
The NBA record of 72 wins, set 20 years ago by Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls, could be in reach.
“If it’s there for us we want to get it, but at the end of the day we’re trying to win a championship,” Thompson said.
There are a couple of teams in the West, and a front-runner in the East that could pose the toughest challenges to the Warriors.
San Antonio, Oklahoma City and Cleveland seem to have the best chances to prevent Golden State from repeating, though the Warriors blew out the Spurs and Cavaliers last time they met.
Business comes before basketball this week, as the trade deadline is Thursday afternoon, a few hours before the season resumes. Contenders will try to load up and disappointments can break up.
From there, there’s less than two months before the playoffs begin.
LeBron James dismissed a report this week that the Cavaliers were discussing trading Kevin Love, saying they had enough to win after a turbulent first half that included the firing of coach David Blatt not long after Kyrie Irving had returned from knee surgery.
“Every piece that we have means a lot to the process,” James said. “Obviously with myself, Kyrie and Kev, we spearhead the whole thing. We’re focused on the main thing and knowing what the main thing is every day, we’re going to have a great chance.”
So will the Spurs, who are just 3 1/2 games behind Golden State at 45-8, and like the Warriors are unbeaten at home. They have won six in a row even while Manu Ginobili is recovering from surgery, as star offseason acquisition LaMarcus Aldridge looks more comfortable playing for his new team.
“We’ve been winning and we’re putting ourselves in a position to be special,” Aldridge said. “So that’s what it’s about.”
There’s plenty more to watch down the stretch, from Kobe Bryant’s final games before retirement to the rookie of the year race between Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns and New York’s Kristaps Porzingis.
But the focus will never be too far from the Warriors and Curry, who seems headed for a second straight MVP award. Their record-setting start to the season brought unusually high attention to the NBA’s pre-Christmas schedule, and a strong finish and a chance at 73 wins would do the same during March Madness.
The record would be nice. The Warriors would prefer another ring.
“I think we just want more. We’re not satisfied with winning the championship,” Green said. “We think we have something special and it only lasts so long, so we want to take advantage of that and not get complacent. Let’s continue to try to get more.”