DENVER -- Now it’s a record-tying 15-0 for the Warriors, after a 118-105 sluicing of the Denver Nuggets that, initially, didn’t come so easily. The Warriors were dragging at altitude in the first quarter, causing interim coach Luke Walton to ask a simple question of his team: “Where’s the joy?”
Joy? Sports aren’t supposed to be about joy. They’re supposed to be about proving yourself through a grueling slog of self-sacrifice. That’s why, for years, sports pundits scoffed at football teams getting “pass happy” and basketball teams “falling in love with the 3-pointer.” Happiness is viewed with suspicion in a hypercompetitive world.
To the Warriors, though, joy is a weapon, an essential aspect of winning. Their fun is your demise.
When looking back on this win, you’d do well to view a few Stephen Curry highlights. He logged a mere 28 minutes but still managed to make a shot after playing three-card monte with Danilo Gallinari’s eyeballs. That kind of play defines the Warriors to many, but so does something else Steph Curry did -- on the bench.
Walton elected to rest Curry more than usual in this game, sending him to the bench before the end of quarters. During one of his prolonged breaks, the subs broke out, extending the lead beyond where the Nuggets could follow. The capper was an Ian Clark transition layup with 9:09 left in the fourth quarter. Clark’s feat inspired Curry to do what Curry described as a “barrel roll” on the sideline, as the other resting starters went crazy. Curry had a towel draped over his head that he lost in the madness.
When asked about the bench celebration, Curry said, “The whole bench is locked in. We try to be loud and vocal and support the guys on the floor. We try to highlight our depth.”
This is, as much as any Curry highlight, a reflection of what the Warriors are. This team boasts an esprit de corps that’s as much an ingredient to winning as it is a product of winning. Golden State unleashes bench celebrations that rival their alluring play on the floor. It’s all part of the joy, all part of the competition.
After the game, Clark said of the support, “I just got to talking about it earlier with James [Michael McAdoo] in the locker room. From 1 to 15, guys support each other all the way down.”
Clark was the last guy who made the roster. But the reigning MVP celebrated his accomplishment as much as anyone else’s. Bench support will be a big benefit to this team if they really are to chase 72 wins. Curry might be an extraterrestrial, but even aliens need their rest.
Marreese Speights, who had a nice bench run after some recent struggles, defined the dynamic. “It's a brotherhood,” he said. “We support every guy that steps on the court, whether it's 30 minutes or two minutes. Everybody gets the same love. That's why we're making history now.”
Even the crankiest Warrior appreciates the positive impact of that love. Veteran’s veteran Andre Iguodala has been massive for Golden State this season. He seems to operate less as a role player than an orchestra conductor attempting to realize his artistic vision.
“They think I'm crazy. I probably would agree with them, a little crazy. I'm like a coach, like a crazy coach, where every little thing I want to be right,” Iguodala said of how he’s viewed. He might be a perfectionist, but in his view, perfection is synonymous with fun: “I just want the guys to enjoy the game, play the right way, play for one another, and when that happens, success is like nothing else."
This was another game that tilted Golden State’s way with an introduction of the Curry-Thompson-Iguodala-Barnes-Green lineup. That unit has played 56 minutes this season, and it has scored 200 points. No, that is not a typo.
That lineup also epitomizes the success of 15-0. It is versatile, free-flowing, fast, joyous hoops. To the competition, it’s devastating, terrifying and demoralizing. To the Warriors, it’s an expression of elation. And judging by recent TV ratings and road attendance patterns, joy is quite contagious.