Inside the Warriors’ building, everyone was transfixed. Riveted.
To the end of the Spurs-Lakers game.
After their 123-103 victory over Phoenix, the Warriors (and the collected media and team officials) stood in the team locker room watching San Antonio pull out the overtime victory by a whopping score of 143-142.
“I just notice the points,” Stephen Curry said, when asked about the ramped-up pace of play in the young NBA season. “Like that game we were just watching.
“It’s great for the offensive-minded guys,” he added with a wink.
Yes, everyone was feeling good Monday night.
The slump was over.
Oh, wait, you didn’t notice it?
The Warriors had lost a tough game in Denver on Sunday. And when they entered Monday’s home game, they found themselves near the bottom of the league in three-point percentage (weird), near the top in total turnovers (not weird), and Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant had combined for just three three-pointers (super weird).
A couple of years ago, those combined facts would have sent the paying customers into near panic. Even after just three games.
But the public has learned. Games before April mean very little and games before Halloween mean virtually nothing at all. Except for entertainment value, as the Spurs-Lakers game and the fascinated audience proved. The NBA is very entertaining.
The Warriors put on their own show Monday, putting the hammer down on the Suns, and resting the starters for most of the fourth quarter.
“That looked like our team,” head coach Steve Kerr said. “The purpose of each possession. Driving and kicking. Trying to get better.”
A public-service reminder that it isn’t really true that regular season games don’t matter. The Warriors found themselves in a Game 7 in Houston in the Western Conference finals in May because regular-season games, even the ones in October, actually count. The Warriors didn’t secure the top seed in West.
Now they’re at it again. Another season full of trying to find sources of motivation. By the way, we’re not talking just about the players.
The fans can’t sustain peak-excitement the way they used to, back in the days when winning was a novelty. The loudest it got in Oracle on Monday night was when the Suns’ Ryan Andersen missed a free-throw try and a notice came on the video board that if he missed another, everyone would get a free Jumbo Jack.
Seriously. That was what it took for a really loud and sustained roar. The thought of a free greasy slab of junk food.
But we should we expect anything else? There will be much nostalgia this season for the bygone days of Roar-acle and fans who were motivated by equal parts basketball knowledge, success starvation and flat-out anger. Today’s ticket buyers are as sated on championships as the players are. No longer starving for titles, they would like a free hamburger.
There will be ebbs and flows in this season. The news Monday was that center DeMarcus Cousins will be joining team practices in a “controlled” fashion this week. Though Kerr refused to say it, it would seem that Cousins is ahead of schedule and soon enough will morph from the professorial-looking presence on the bench, conferring during timeouts, to Boogie on the court. Maybe by the end of the year. That will be a jolt of excitement and energy and a new piece of the puzzle to solve.
Motivation will be a continuing talking point. Coming home from a 1-1 road trip in high altitude, on the back end of a back-to-back, Kerr sounded much like he did through large chunks of last season. He talked about the need to look for better shots. To play with purpose and focus.
“I thought we didn’t move the ball,” Kerr said. “We’re not passing the ball well through three games. … We’ve got to be more focused in our approach and our intent.”
Whatever was said between Sunday night in Denver and Monday in Oakland seemed to have worked. The Warriors jumped on the Suns, opening up a 23-point halftime lead.
The team shot 37 three-pointers. Still, Durant and Thompson combined to make only three and Thompson left the game with an ankle tweak that the team described as mild. (Thompson’s low three-point total has led to speculation that his longer hair and fuller beard has perhaps impacted his balance and aerodynamics).
The Warriors had 35 assists, limited their turnovers to 14 and didn’t send the Suns to the free-throw line constantly.
The team’s brightest spot continues to be Curry. The Warriors released a statistic that Curry’s 22 three-pointers through the first four games set an NBA record, breaking his own mark of 21 three-pointers through the first four games. He and his father moved into second-place behind Kobe and Joe Bryant into father-son combined points.
“It’s pretty special,” Curry said. “I’m going to talk to the rules committee to see if we can get Seth’s numbers in there. Strength in numbers.”
On the TV, a little girl appeared to be about to cry over the Lakers’ loss. Someone needs to tell her: It’s a long, long season.