Jackson on Curry: 'If he doesn't make the All-Star team I might retire'
Stephen Curry put on a show in South Beach as he finished with 36 points, 12 assists and four steals in the Warriors' win over the Heat. (USATSI)
The Warriors left Miami not only with a 123-114 victory over the back-to-back NBA champion Heat but also with an abundance of an element rarely displayed through the first 33 games.
Swagger. Or, if you prefer, swag.
The swagger evident in the wake of the Warriors' playoff-series win over Denver last spring has been mostly invisible this season. Blame it on losses at Charlotte and Phoenix – and, worst of all, at Oracle Arena to a Spurs team without Tim Duncan, Tony Parker or Manu Ginobili.
But when you go into South Beach and destroy the defending champs, stripping LeBron James of some of his MVP luster, and torching them for more points than any opponent this season, you reaffirm your Swag Card credential.
And when Stephen Curry lights it up for 36 points and David Lee for 32 and you lead the Heat for all but 59 seconds of the game – and you're on a seven-game win streak – you have earned the privilege to brandish the card.
“If you come in here and play the way we did tonight, it shows that we're on the right path,'' Curry said. “If we keep our head down and keep working, we'll be alright.''
This was the Warriors' most resounding win of the season because it came on the home court of the best team in the league, in the middle of a long road trip and illustrated why the Warriors (21-13) are so close to joining the NBA elite.
They shot well (56 percent), defended well enough (James never got into a comfortable rhythm) and owned the glass (40 rebounds to 31). The Warriors survived a 13-turnover first half, committing only five in the decisive second half. And they were superior in transition against a team that thrives on transition.
“We wanted to push the tempo,'' coach Mark Jackson said. “Fortunately, we did. We began to get some quality shots and get some stops. It was just a big win for us against the defending NBA World Champions.
“We are a good basketball team. We want to win the games we are supposed to win and against the elite teams, whether home or away, we want to battle and compete to give ourselves a chance to win. Tonight, we did that. We competed and understood the task that was at hand. I am awfully proud of our guys.''
The Warriors started fast, were up by four at the half and opened the second half with a 16-6 run to take an 81-67 lead with 7:39 left in the third quarter. The Heat (24-8) spent the rest of the evening trying to come back and never did.
When Miami closed to within four (111-107) on a James jumper with 4:28 left, the Warriors answered with a 9-0 to send the Heat to defeat.
It's the second consecutive season the Warriors have gone into American Airlines Arena and downed the defending champs.
“We're not circling games because of who we're playing,'' Curry said, “because we feel like if we play the way we're supposed to, we're going to be in every game and have a chance to win it every single night.''
This is the kind of triumph a team circles only after it's complete. It's a reminder to the Warriors of how good they can be, how fine they are when they are on point.
The swagger is back, at least as back as it can be until the postseason.
THE GOOD: Curry was spectacular, with 13-of-22 shooting from the floor, 8 of 15 from beyond the arc. He distributed 12 assists and came up with four steals.
Lee was, once again, highly efficient around the basket, needing only 17 shots (he made 13) to find 32 points. He added 14 rebounds.
Andre Iguodala was his usual self on offense, supplying a little bit of everything. But he really shined on defense against James, who finished with 26 points but never got comfortable and committed eight turnovers.
THE BAD: The bench generally was ineffective, but it didn't hurt because the starters were so dominant.
The 13 first-half turnovers (leading to 20 Miami points) aren't so bad when you commit only five in the second half.
THE TAKE: This was a milestone win for the Warriors insofar as they spent two days in the sun and sin of Miami and still owned the champs. Take this one and frame it, for it announces that the Warriors indeed have the makings of a contender.