Highlights: Warriors erase 18-point deficit to beat Mavs
They remember Curry At The End, because they always remember Curry At The End. (AP)
Programming note: Rockets-Warriors coverage tips off Friday at 7 p.m. with Warriors Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area (territorial restrictions apply)
Not many people claim to be confused by the Golden State Warriors these days. They are magic wrapped in wonder tied off by pixie dust and put on the high shelf for everyone to see and gawk at because there is always a pyrotechnic surprise popping out of the top.
And yet, as they slipped past the quarter pole of the season, I freely admit to being . . . well, baffled.
They seem to be slowly but surely falling into a trap of thinking they can start slowly and then sprint to a glorious end – because they can. They are praised as The Next Great Thing by NBA insiders the continent over, when in fact they are injury-riddled, bench-shy and vulnerable when their defensive attention slips.
They are fun as hell, and maddening as all get-out. Expectations unfettered by actual deeds.
Yes, this is going to come off as one more example of dousing the campfire while people are just settling in around it, but since their high-water mark last February of 30-17, the Warriors are barely a .500 team. Seventy games, which is not a small sample size, and 36-34, a percentage of .514 which would have earned them exactly one playoff berth in the last 15 years – the one the We Believe team took in 2007.
They are, in one significant way, a classic Warrior team – long on aesthetics, not quite so on actual results. Not that the results are bad, or that you don’t know what you’re seeing. Stephen Curry is a form of pure enchantment, and with all due respect to the rest of the roster, he is the Get Out Of Loser card they all play in those moments when nothing less will do.
But 36-34. But .514. But what?
This basic fact, free of other contexts, metric constraints or fanciful projections, tells only some of the tale here, and nobody believes the team won’t be better once designated Swiss Army knife Andre Iguodala fully heals. But there is something mildly unsettling about the notion of promises not yet fulfilled, assumptions not yet turned into evidence, about maybe the entire world getting a little over its skis about this team.
These last 70 games do not trump your feelings about the Warriors’ basic incandescence. They can be rationalized away as growing pains, a necessary developmental stage, of a team learning how to walk, then run, then nail a step-back jumper at the horn.
But they are also an essential fact that the players may understand better than the rest of us. Andrew Bogut’s “Give Us No Alibis, Offer Us No Excuses” manifesto should be committed to memory by all staff and customers and recited before every game, right after the player introductions.
But it won’t be. True believers are those least able to process the process, and the Warrior bandwagon is full of them. Nobody remembers the 36 minutes in which the Warriors were seemingly befuddled by Dirk Nowitzki’s 450,000th up-fake and how prone and vulnerable a shooting team is to bad shooting nights. They remember Curry At The End, because they always remember Curry At The End.
But Curry At The End doesn’t work as the be-all-and-end-all of Warrior basketball – not if the end game is to be a conference title contender. These last 70 games have been educational as well as entertaining, but the Warriors need to move to that next phase – the one where they are held up not against their own historically low standards, but against those set by the San Antonios and Oklahoma Citys. The Warriors are entertaining. The next 70 games should be about whether they can become exemplary.