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Somehow, Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors are better than ever

(Photo: NBA.com)

Just in case your mind started wandering off, wistfully dreaming about a mid-June night where someone other than Golden State is hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy, here’s a reality check for you.

The Warriors are even more unstoppable than ever before.

Last year, the Dubs stumbled distractedly through the regular season, finishing 58-24, a full seven games behind the invigorated Rockets. They had to fight and scratch and claw to escape Houston, aided by Chris Paul’s injury and an historically-awful 7-for-44 shooting performance from 3 in Game 7. They were lucky to win that series, and the title.

Well, this ain’t last year.

The Houston Rockets are a shell of their former selves, having started out the year at 1-5.

There’s no one else in the West that stands any semblance of a chance against the Dubs. Take a look at the standings. Who’s going to give them a real series? The Jazz? The Nuggets? Please.

If Houston can’t get its act together, this is going to be a runaway season for Golden State, with or without Boogie Cousins, who they truthfully don’t even need at all.

This is the third year of the Kevin Durant era in Golden State, and by now, this team has figured out the perfect way to play with each other. They’ve found the right balance of moments when Steph can take over, when Klay can, and most effortlessly, when KD can bury his rhythm jumpers over any outstretched arms in the league.

Durant is averaging 27.8 points, 7.2 boards and 6.8 assists per game, and he’s shooting a ridiculous 56 percent from the floor.

Thompson just set the NBA’s all-time record for three-pointers in a game, and scored 52 in 27 minutes.

But neither are playing as well as two-time MVP and one-time unanimous MVP Steph Curry, who’s somehow pulling off the best season of his NBA career.

Curry is shooting a ridiculous 55 percent from the floor, and 53 percent from three-point range. We’re only nine games in, but to put that into perspective, he shot 50 percent from the field and 45 percent from three during his otherworldly 2016 campaign, when he won his second straight MVP and legitimately could have won Most Improved Player, too.

Amazingly, on a team with Durant and Thompson, he’s leading the league at 33 points per game, and he’s doing that in 34 minutes per.

He’s also running the point better than ever before, and it shows in his 5.9 assists per game.

This team has played together for long enough now that it’s completely clicked, it’s found its most optimal game, and nobody else even stands a chance.

It doesn’t help the rest of the NBA that Steve Kerr is a legitimately great coach, both motivationally and with his innovative X’s and O’s. He’s the one who unlocked all of this incredible potential four years ago, when everyone was shocked that the Dubs won 67 games, and that a team that shot all those jumpers could actually win the NBA title.

Of course, the Warriors won 73 games the next year, without Durant, and they were one of the greatest teams of all-time the following season with him in the lineup.

But that iteration of Golden State was more like the early versions of the Miami Heat with LeBron and D-Wade–still trying to figure out how to play with each other, and when to let Wade take the back seat. KD emerged as the dominant force on those Warriors teams, with Curry and Thompson filling in and cashing 3’s when necessary.

This year, Golden State’s offense is more advanced, more sophisticated, more mature. It’s flowing like an organism, naturally adapting and interacting with its environment.

When Klay caught fire in Chicago a few nights ago, KD and Steph took a step back, and reveled in feeding him, pushing him to break Steph’s all-time record, with genuine joy in their eyes.

It wouldn’t be a surprise at all to see Curry reclaim the record later this year, just because he was feeling it.

The Warriors’ culture is genuine and rare, and it’s Curry’s temperament that has made this entire thing successful. Most back-to-back MVPs would have scoffed at adding another MVP to their squad. Most wouldn’t want to see their NBA record fall, even at the hands of a teammate.

But Curry’s unbridled joy and sincere happiness and benevolence towards his teammates is special. He’s an MVP on and off the court, and it’s going to result in his team going down as one of the greatest to ever play.

Speaking of that, Steve Nash was right when he proclaimed that Steph is already an all-time great. He did single-handedly change the way the game is played, like few others in the history of the sport have. There’s no arguing that.

We’re only nine games in, but Steph is, improbably, better than ever. The Dubs, improbably, are too.

The rest of the NBA will just have to keep waiting, because this isn’t going away anytime soon.

 

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Trae Young goes off in first breakout performance in the NBA

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