At 22-0 – and counting – the Warriors are NBA’s Greatest Show on Hardwood

For a time in Brooklyn on Sunday night, the Golden State Warriors’ historic streak seemed in danger of meeting an abrupt end, but ultimately a surge from Stephen Curry and a strong fourth quarter by the visitors helped Golden State extend the greatest season start in major pro sports history.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been 22-0 in my life,” reigning MVP Steph Curry said after the 114-98 victory. “It’s pretty special. I think we’ll appreciate it later. There are no trophies for being undefeated until July.”

For the Warriors, the win makes it the 26th consecutive regular season victory, dating back to April 9, and the last time Golden State lost was on June 9 in Game 3 of the NBA Finals. They are the fourth team across the four major professional sports leagues to win at least 26 consecutive regular-season games (the New York Giants won an MLB-record 26-straight games in 1916), and they now possess the third-longest streak in NBA history, behind only the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers (33) and the 2012-13 Miami Heat (27).

Golden State owns the best record to start a season across the four major professional sports leagues, surpassing baseball’s St. Louis Maroons of the Union Association, which started the 1884 campaign with a 20-0 mark. With a 12-0 road record, the Warriors matched another milestone by tying the 1969-70 New York Knicks for the best road start.

ESPN’s Basketball Power Index (BPI) tells us that they are also closing in on another piece of history: the record for wins in a season — 72 — set by the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls. Those Bulls won 20 of their first 22 games and are considered the most dominating team in NBA history. But to put in perspective how difficult it will be for the Warriors to match those Bulls, Golden State will have to win 50 of its final 60 games.

The Warriors’ run has become a national story and each of their games, whether home or on the road, has become an event. Droves of fans are flocking to each of Golden State’s road games, whether it is in Charlotte or Brooklyn. MVP chants are breaking out for Curry in road arenas and his pregame workouts are becoming like batting practice used to be for Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa.

“It’s crazy,” said Luke Walton, the interim coach of these Warriors. “Everywhere we’re going right now. It’s entertaining. People want to come watch these guys play. I would too, as a basketball fan. We play at a fast pace. We share the ball. We have electrifying players. We make crazy shots. It’s just a really entertaining brand of basketball. But our guys are so great because they combine that with this want and this willingness to compete and win every time they step on the court.

“People like seeing that too. So it’s turned into kind of like a circus. Every arena we go to, people are out early to watch Steph warm up. Most of the arenas are sold out, if not pretty close. But it is fun. Our guys like that.”

The Warriors are clearly basketball’s top team on the court, but by nearly any other measure — from ticket and merchandise sales to social-media buzz — they also have become the game’s most popular and high-profile attraction. Right now the Warriors are not only the most fun team to watch in the NBA, but they are the most exciting team going in all of professional sports. The shooting, the ball movement, the defense, the fluidity and even some of the over-the-top bench celebrations.

The team flings the ball around the perimeter until it finds an open player, improbable shots regularly drop and they never stop pushing the tempo. They may not have a cool nickname like the St. Louis Rams of the early 2000’s, who were dubbed the “Greatest Show on Turf,” but these Warriors are easily the “Greatest Show on Hardwood.”

“No, we ain’t throwing no type of nickname around right now, were just going by the name on our jerseys, the Warriors, and that’s what we represent,” reserve guard Brandon Rush told me about a possible nickname. “We’ll figure something out, I’m sure the media will.”

Fresh off an NBA championship in June, the Warriors could have easily gotten off to a poor start, blamed it on a championship hangover and took some nights off before declaring that they’ll be ready for the playoffs. Instead they have outscored opponents by 327 points through 22 games, the largest margin in NBA history (1969-70 Knicks, 324).

“We weren’t sure either how it would play out and there’s always that risk of a championship hangover,” Walton said. “But just the guys on the team we have. There a great mix, we got vets, younger guys, we added All-Star’s last year. This year Draymond’s playing like an All-Star. It’s just who they are. We didn’t have to do anything special as coaches, there’s no message that we gave them. They just came in to training camp day one ready to get after it because they got a taste of it and they want more of it.”

The Warriors can still win most games even when a lot goes wrong.  But for Warriors’ opponents to have a chance, nearly everything must go right. Preserving the immaculate record adds a sense of urgency for every game and protecting the historic streak adds motivation going into each game for some players, like Klay Thompson.

“None of us want to lose and we don’t want to end that winning streak anytime soon,” Thompson said. “It’s a special thing.

How much longer will it go on? The Warriors have three games remaining on their seven-game road trip — Tuesday at Indiana, Saturday at Boston, Sunday at Milwaukee — and three home games — Suns, Bucks and Jazz — before their Finals rematch with Cleveland. Frank Vogel’s Pacers will offer a stiff test tonight, but at this stage, there’s no betting against Golden State.

“Our guys don’t want this first loss,” Walton said, “so we keep constantly bringing it. The bigger the stage gets, I’ll keep saying it, the better our guys play.”


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