The year 2016 can be summarized as a giant rain cloud. The rain falling down on us was such things as overbearing election coverage, ongoing wars overseas, and the numerous deaths of celebrities and stars that touched our lives. But, with rain comes rainbows, pleasant reminders that the world is indeed a great place after all, and the Golden State Warriors are my rainbow for 2016. Here is a look back at all the colors of the rainbow that made last year such a memorable year for the Dubs.
First, let's look at 2016 as two book ends, snapshots in time, like if someone asked you what the state of the Warriors was at that exact moment: Jan 1, 2016 and Dec 31, 2016.
Jan 1, 2016
The Warriors are 30-2, fresh off a 114-110 win against a James Harden and Dwight Howard-led Houston Rockets team. Before that close victory, Golden State had won 24 straight games to start the season, finally falling to the Bucks in a hard fought game in Milwaukee. Thanks to a hot start by future back-to-back MVP Stephen Curry, the Warriors were able to win a few more games before 2015 ended, and by the All-Star break in mid-February, the Warriors were sitting pretty atop the Western Conference at 48-5. The team lost only 4 more games the rest of the way to set the all-time win record by an NBA team with 73 victories. We all know how the playoffs progressed and ended, in a heartbreaking loss to Lebron James and his Cavaliers in The Finals, but the positive takeaway for the season was that we were all able to witness NBA history. No team had ever won 73 games in a season and no team had ever played with such a combination of cutthroat finesse and basketball harmony as the 2015-16 Golden State Warriors. Fans of every team, not just the Dubs, were able to watch one of the greatest basketball teams ever assembled.
Dec 31, 2016
New season, new players, same dominant team. The Warriors just defeated the Dallas Mavericks on 12/30 and are currently 29-5. There was no 24 game win streak to start the season, this Warriors team actually lost their first game to the Spurs at home in a blowout, but the signing of Kevin Durant in the offseason made that first loss no big deal. Golden State won 4 straight after opening night, followed by a 12 game win streak later on in November. Durant's presence was worrisome, as the team's chemistry was half the season they've been so dominant, but KD seems to be fitting in just fine. He, Curry, and Klay Thompson are all averaging 20+ points and, according to basketball-reference.com, the Warriors have the best true shooting percentage in the league. That stat goes to show how well their "pass up a good shot for a great shot" mentality is working.
Now for the nuts and bolts, the juicy moments in between those two dates. Some will bring happy memories to the surface, one will claw at you like a bad nightmare. Here are my top 10 Warriors moments and storylines from 2016, in no particular order!
Stephen Curry Game Winner vs Thunder (February 27, 2016)
Ok, so I lied. Deep down in my heart, this was the best of the best from 2016 so I decided to start off with this one. I'll list my feels below:
-Steph pulls up from 30+ feet like it's nothing. Who else in the league would: 1. Do something like that so calmly and 2. End up making the shot??!!
-Steve Kerr's trust in his team by not calling a timeout. Any other coach would have tried to quickly draw up a play in a timeout but Kerr immediately waves Steph forward, knowing in the back of his mind that Steph will probably knock down the game winner. He was correct!
-Anthony Morrow and Enes Kanter on the Thunder bench. Morrow seems to be yelling at Andre Roberson "HE'S NEAR HALF-COURT, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD PLAY UP ON HIM, HE CAN MAKE THAT SH---oh shucks." And if there ever was a physical movement that fully embodied the word "shucks," it's what Kanter does. Throwing his hands up as to say, "Why? Just...why? Why wouldn't you guard him?"
-Just the fact that this happened against the Thunder, a future 2016 playoff opponent, against Durant, a future Warrior, and against Westbrook, a future Warrior hater. It's almost too perfect.
Finishing 2015-16 with 73 wins
I've already written about this amazing feat but let's quickly recap: best offensive rating in 2015-16, top 5 defensive rating, MVP on the team, best home court advantage, most fun team to watch, beautiful Bay Area weather - I guess all that has to equal a record 73 wins, huh? The asterisk is already pretty huge next to the winningest team in NBA history, thanks to their Finals loss to the Cavaliers, but no one can ever say that they've won more games in a single season than the 2016 Golden State Warriors. Nobody. That means you, MJ.
Klay Thompson scoring 60 points in 29 mins. vs Pacers (December 5, 2016)
Klay Thompson and Kobe Bryant: when you think of players scoring 60+ points in just three quarters, you can only think of those two guys. Kobe's game was incredible because it was Kobe, the Black Mamba, and he outscored the entire Mavericks team after just three quarters, 62-61. But Thompson's feat was almost more impressive because of the way he produced 60 points. Kobe liked to dribble, it was his nature to have the ball in his hands all time, especially before making a turn-around fadeaway with his tongue out right in your face. Klay Thompson is also a shooting guard but he mainly runs off screens, barely even touching the ball. According to SBNation.com, against the Pacers on Dec. 5th, "Thompson touched the ball 52 times and took just 11 dribbles all game. His total time of possession - 90 seconds - averages out to 1.73 seconds per touch. Only one of his field goals were unassisted."
Draymond Green's Finals suspension vs Cavaliers (June 12, 2016)
Here's the first gut punch I'm going to throw at you. Yes, this certainly belongs in the Cavaliers 2016 Year in Review column, not here. However, George Santayana said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it" and I think Draymond Green needs to remember all the times he kicked someone in the nuts so he doesn't do it again (Green actually got called for a flagrant foul this season for swinging his leg up and hitting James Harden in the head during a collision at the rim. I'll be sure to send him a direct copy of this article, don't worry Warrior fans). The reason Green was suspended from Game 5 of last year's Finals, a major turning point in the series, was not purely for tapping Lebron James in the groin in Game 4. It was from Green's repeated love taps throughout the playoffs. Seriously, ask Steven Adams how his nuts feel right now. He'd probably make a hilarious New Zealand joke about the whole thing, bless his soul, but I bet he's still dealing with some swelling. Green's nut punches/kicks/whatever you want to call them are very uncalled for but, like it or not, his Game 5 suspension changed the course of NBA history and ultimately set the Warriors up for a big payday, a payday that could mean several championships down the road.
The Kevin Durant Sweepstakes (July 4, 2016)
And here's the payday! When Lebron left Cleveland for South Beach in 2010, we all thought that was the biggest free agent move ever. And then the summer of 2016 happened. Kevin Durant had a long list of teams to choose from, one of them being the Warriors. If Golden State had won the championship last year, Durant would not have come to the Bay. But lucky enough for us, he decided that the Warriors would be the best fit for him. I mean seriously, you can rag on the guy all you want about joining an already good team and Western Conference rival, but is there any other slot he could have fit more perfectly? He's doing the exact same things as Harrison Barnes did, just a million times better PLUS he has the ability to create his own shot. He would have been an idiot to not think about coming to the Bay. And if Green hadn't been suspended in Game 5, opening the door for the Cavaliers to rumble back into The Finals, we wouldn't have this super-duper death lineup, or whatever the kids are calling it these days. The Warriors may have lost in June but they certainly won in July. Now if we can only get Anderson Varejao some more minutes, then we'll be in business. KIDDING.
Klay Thompson Hero Ball in Game 6 vs. Thunder (May 28, 2016)
Although Stephen Curry is the face of the Splash Bros, thanks to his two MVPs, Klay Thompson has had many moments of his own to brag about. He may also have the more beautiful looking shot (just ask President Obama! It's at 2:12). Not only has Thompson scored a ridiculous 37 points in one-quarter and 60 points in 29 minutes, he also saved the Warriors season when they were on the brink of playoff elimination in last year's Western Conference Finals. Down 3-2 in the series against the Thunder and playing a road game in Oklahoma City, one of the loudest arenas in the country, Thompson put on a spectacular show. He scored 41 points, made a playoff record 11 three pointers, and made a fading three-pointer with a 1:30 left to put the Warriors up by 3 points. Thompson is a pretty quiet guy when it comes to interviews but when he gets hot, the emotion pours out of him and on this night, you could see how much he didn't want to lose.
Franchise record 47 assists vs Lakers (November 23, 2016)
In the 2015-16 season, the Warriors had only one game of 40+ assists, against the Nuggets in early November. So far this season, the team has three such games: Klay Thompson's 60 point night (45 assists), a game against the Knicks on Dec. 15th (41 assists), and a game against the Lakers on Nov 23rd, Luke Walton's return to Oracle Arena. The Warriors finished with 47 assists, a franchise record for a game, and it was the ninth consecutive 30-plus assist game for the team. According to mercurynews.com, the Warriors record in 30-plus assists games the past two seasons: 52-2. Jeez, talk about a team that plays beautiful basketball. And to make this feat even more impressive, the Warriors had 47 assists on 53 made shots. 6 shots were unassisted, probably just a few dribble iso pull-ups from KD and Steph. I'll be sure to have a talk with them about that.
Stephen Curry, Unanimous MVP! (May 11, 2016)
Rapper Drake has made several songs referencing Steph Curry's baller status but his song "Back-to-back," another Meek Mill diss track, is the perfect unintentional Chef Curry song. There are no mentions of Steph's baby face or half-court heaves but when you think back on Curry's dream 2016 season, you'll remember that he finished the regular season as the back-to-back MVP winner AND he won it unanimously, he's the first guy to ever do that! Not even MJ can say he did that! Does that make Curry the GOAT? Absolutely! Well, no it actually doesn't but with an astounding 50-40-90 season and his 2nd MVP under his belt, Curry is well on his way to being immortalized in the Hall of Fame. He's the first guy to average 50-40-90 since a guy named Kevin Durant did it back in 2012-13.
Steph makes 13 three-pointers vs Pelicans (November 7, 2016)
If you're the greatest shooter on the planet and probably the greatest shooter to ever live (sorry Jesus Shuttlesworth), you need to own all the records to back that up. Well, Curry's already got the record for most threes in a season by a long shot (out of the top five seasons in NBA history, he owns three spots) and he is on pace to break Ray Allen's record of 2,973 career three-point makes. All Curry needed was the most threes in a game record, which was 12 before Curry made 13 triples against the Pelicans last month. This game was of course bonkers, because of that feat, but what makes it more impressive was because the game before against the Lakers, Curry had his streak of consecutive three-point field goals in a game broken at 157 games. Curry went 0-10 from three that game and it seemed like he had lost his touch. PSYCH! Curry went 13-17 from deep the next game, a shooting percentage that would make DeAndre Jordan blush, including a final, fadeaway impossible shot that blew the roof off of Oracle Arena. I think Curry is the best shooter ever and he's got the stats and records to back it up!
Javale McGee IS Shaqtin A Fool vs Suns (December 3, 2016)
I lied again. THIS is the greatest Warriors moment in 2016. It might actually be the greatest in NBA history. Now Javale McGee is really tall and can dunk a basketball with utter ferocity, we can see that when he throws down lobs from Draymond Green. But he can also be a complete klutz out on the court and the show "Shaqtin A Fool" has thankfully been able to document these moments. McGee is the only 2-time Shaqtin A Fool MVP and he was also awarded the Shaqtin A Fool Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014. When you type in "Javale McGee Shaqtin A Fool" on Youtube, you'll be able to watch the many, many times McGee has, you guessed it, acted a fool out on the court. But you'll notice most of these moments happened in 2014 and 2015 when he was a Wizard or Nugget. However, McGee decided to dust the cobwebs off of another Shaqtin A Fool moment just a few weeks ago when the Warriors played the Suns. Ian Clark makes the free throw, Javale McGee tries to inbound the ball when it's actually the Suns' ball, and the crowd, the Warriors bench, even Suns guard Eric Bledsoe, react beautifully. Zaza Pachulia immediately hides his face in laughter while the crowd goes from a slow rumble to a laugh-out-loud applause at the Shaqtin A Fool moment they just witnessed. McGee was a good sport about it, saluting the crowd as if to say, "That's the only one you're going to get!" I guarantee you it's not!