The Golden State Warriors’ absurd winning streak has enthralled the rest of the NBA to start this season, and the obvious question of when they might lose has been begged plenty of times so far. The more this team defies logic, the more intriguing they become to try to figure out.
Heading into Tuesday night’s game against the Indiana Pacers, many media members believed that a trip to Indianapolis could be Golden State’s first undoing. The Warriors were already four games into a seven-game road trip out East, and the Pacers were just returning home from an up-and-down road trip. Considering Indiana’s hot start under its new small-ball lineup and Paul George’s MVP-esque play, they seemed like an ideally suited challenger to the Warriors’ ongoing mastery of this season. Even PG himself sounded enthused about the challenge and potential result.
Turns out, everyone was wrong. Even worse, all the pro-Pacers talk only seemed to motivate the Warriors, who pay attention to that kind of thing and capitalize on disrespect –– perceived or otherwise –– in the most ruthless of ways. Tuesday night was not an exception.
I was at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse to watch the game, and everyone was excited about a potential upset. Indiana’s reputation as a basketball state far exceeds the actual amount of people who consistently attend professional basketball games in Indianapolis, but on this night, Pacers fans turned out pretty well, putting forth a sellout crowd and far fewer Stephen Curry jerseys in the audience than I anticipated. The team started out well too, staking itself a 21-17 lead about halfway through the first quarter.
Then, the Warriors happened.
In less than five minutes, Golden State cranked out a 23-3 run that flipped their deficit into a 16-point lead and effectively vanquished the home BLF crowd, who’d fallen silent other than the pockets of Warriors fans scattered throughout the arena. While they gleefully punctuated every Klay Thompson three, Indiana fans seemed in shock, like, “We knew they were good, but we didn’t know they were this good.”
The Pacers were down 44-28 at the end of the first quarter, but it really felt more like the end of the game. That three quarters remained to be played seemed unbelievable given how much had already happened.
The Warriors deflate crowds and dash hopes so quickly that, at this point, their wins feel like a foregone conclusion to the fans watching from the stands. All the anticipation from the day, all the excitement from the evening’s early lead, all cast aside with such efficient, effortless flicks of the wrist that attending the game at all almost felt like a waste of time, energy and optimism.
To its credit, the sellout crowd remained mostly intact for the duration of the game, and fans even attempted to achieve legitimate excitement at the possibility of a comeback. This happened several times, most notably at the beginning of the second half, when George cut what had once been a 22-point deficit to 15 on a breakaway dunk following a steal. Fans stood to cheer, invigorated by what felt like an overdue great play from its superstar. This is what fans are supposed to do, stay ready in case of a comeback, then urge the team on its uprising. Pacers fans were admirably hanging in there and ready to roar.
This is also what the Warriors do, however, and the George steal-and-dunk sequence wound up as barely a blemish, as the Dubs would immediately force four Indiana turnovers to go on an 8-2 run that both hoisted the the deficit up above 20 points and silenced the crowd once again.
Golden State takes precious care of its leads, relentlessly pushing their margins to the limits and emphatically denying teams who attempt comebacks against them. Their shooting ability can re-inflate any lead just like that, and even on cold nights –– which don’t really happen for this team –– they excel in virtually every other aspect of the game, so they typically have a counter for any punch. Every time the Pacers would make a couple shots or show even an inkling of making a run, it was as if they were on a leash, and Golden State would simply yank them back, sinking a couple quick threes or forcing a couples turnover to regain their comfortable control over their opponent and the game.
Fans aren’t used to seeing resilience look so easy, and after they’d falsely wound themselves up for several fruitless, would-be Indiana comebacks, they seemed almost confused, their comeback cheers stymied time and again in a league where big comebacks happen all the time –– just not against the Warriors. (Now imagine how frustrating it must feel to play against this team, but I digress.)
The only way, it seems, to take advantage of the immortal Warriors rotations is to ambush them when they empty their bench during fourth quarters with big leads. After Luke Walton let off the gas on Indiana and sat most of his key players during the fourth quarter, Frank Vogel left most of his regular guys in there, allowing the Pacers to comically close the deficit all the way to seven points with less than a minute to go. By that time, Walton had re-inserted his starting lineup, and Golden State held off Indiana for a win with a wildly misleading final score, 131-123. Even as a Pacers fan, it felt almost inappropriate for the game to finish so close.
That’s the great irony of watching the Warriors when they come through your favorite team’s gym: sports are supposed to be fun and entertaining, but the Warriors are so good at what they do and have so much fun doing it, they make it less fun for everyone else. The only way to enjoy a game where Golden State is stomping your favorite team is to, well, enjoy Golden State.
Although it goes against the essence of being a fan and does feel weirdly ironic, it shouldn’t have to. The Warriors are extremely good at what they do; right now, they’re historically good and damn entertaining. Curry mentioned it himself this week when he said that Golden State’s current personnel is practically perfect for the league’s current wave. He’s not wrong, and “perfect” teams are supposed to be limited to fantasy sports and video games.
So if GSW happens to be putting it on your team that night, don’t worry about it until the playoffs –– just enjoy the view, ‘cause there’s nothing you can do. It’s a weird experience for an opposing fan, but again, sports are supposed to be fun and entertaining, and there’s no team more fun or entertaining right now than the Golden State Warriors.