PHOENIX — Three days ago, Kobe Bryant said Golden State needed to go through some adversity this season to sharpen themselves for the playoffs.
With all due respect, the Warriors believe that keeping the rest of the NBA under their thumb is edge enough.
They did it again Friday, rolling over and through the Phoenix Suns in a 135-116 victory for their NBA-record 17th consecutive victory to open a season.
Stephen Curry scored 41 points and made nine of the Warriors’ franchise-record 22 three-point field goals on Friday, when they built a 20-point lead in the first 10:03 and rolled home.
“They shoot threes like layups,” Suns forward Markieff Morris said.
It was the kind of game the Warriors have played so often in their unbeaten run, when their offense doesn’t stop until it finds an open man. That, or Curry makes another three.
The Warriors have won 12 games by double figures this season. They beat Memphis by 50 and the Lakers by 34, that coming Tuesday while setting the league-record for victories to start the season.
“You’ve got to have some kind of internal conflict thing,” Bryant said after the Warriors’ trouncing Tuesday. “It keeps the team on edge. If not, it becomes so easy that you just kind of coast. You kind of fall into a malaise.”
Kobe could only wish the Lakers could make it tough on Golden State.
The Warriors seemed malaise-free Friday.
“I get what he is saying, but I think we’ll be all right if we don’t hit a bump,” Curry said.
“I get what he means, that those kinds of tests in the regular season prepare you for what might happen in the playoffs, or toughen you up, or bring you together as a unit. We’ve been through those the last three years as a group, so we remember those minutes. We’ve been through those in the playoffs last year.
“So if we don’t have one of those kind of episodes during the season, I think we’ll be fine. If we do, I think we’ll be able to handle it.”
The Warriors managed quite well without any apparent inner or outer strife a year ago. They never lost more than two games in a row en route to 67 victories and an NBA title last season. They had winning streaks of 16, 12 and eight games, and they rebounded from down two-games-to-one to take the final three games from Cleveland in the Finals.
“We’re obviously probably going to lose a game,” Curry said, “but like last year … we were able to answer the bell when we needed to. That showed in the playoffs in two series. We’ll see how it plays out this year.”
It wasn’t always this good for the Warriors, which is why they understand the other side. They won 26 games in 2010, 23 in 2012 and 47 in 2013, Draymond Green’s first season.
“This team has been together for four years now,” said Green, who had a triple-double Friday, his second of the season and third of his career.
“We’ve been through adversity before, so we know what it is like to go through adversity. If we were a first-year team together and winning like this, then I would agree with Kobe one hundred percent. Since we’ve been together for four years now, I halfway agree with him. We still have adversity on our team, we just don’t outwardly show it. If we need to say something, we say it to each other.”
The Warriors will not go away because a) they play the game without a selfless bone and b) they have Curry, the reigning MVP and the overwhelming favorite to repeat after upping his game this season. You thought 23.8 points a game was a a good number. Curry has jumped that to 32.6 points through 16 games this year. What makes that even better is that Curry isn’t afraid to defer, and that rubs off. He had eight assists on Friday.
“It’s true that playing selfish is contagious and playing selfless is contagious,” said Warriors interim coach Luke Walton, who’s filling in for Steve Kerr after complications from offseason back surgery.
“We get our guys out there making extra passes, and even guys that naturally might be looking to score more often than not get into the passing game. It’s nice to have that on our team.”
Good shots naturally follow, and that’s the best formula to avoid slumps.
“Free-flowing, everybody touches. Everybody makes plays,” Walton said. “If you are open, shoot it, But if someone else has a better shot, move it on. It is simple but it’s fun for everybody that is involved, and it’s really tough to defend.”
Back in the old days, when Portland center Bill Walton wanted his team to run the offense, he’d put both hands over his head and roll them one over another. The Blazers won the 1976-77 title with an unselfish group surrounded by their star, Walton.
These days, his son runs a team that doesn’t need much supervision.
Walton understands where Bryant is coming from, especially because they both played for Phil Jackson with the Lakers.
“I agreed with it for the most part, until I got here,” Walton said. “Phil used to like to keep a little turmoil going around, because it gives guys an edge, and you constantly need an edge, or you play better with an edge in this league.
“I don’t think the way we approach things here is for everybody. You have to have the right personnel. You have to have smart basketball players who are really in it to play for each other and to play to win. But with us, we don’t seem to need that to have success. I think that’s kind of a rare thing.”