Seems like all the Golden State Warriors needed was a little bit of southern hospitality to earn their first victory of the 2016 - 2017 regular season. Even with Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans having another stellar game, the Warriors were able to control the tempo of the game and somewhat make amends for Tuesday's home opener debacle against the San Antonio Spurs.
Of course I am really glad the Warriors have Kevin Durant. He played a magnificent game by scoring 30 points. He even dished out 6 assists and shot well from the field (9 for 19). What I find most significant is how often Durant went to the free throw line and that he was perfect from the charity stripe (12 for 12). The Warriors were sorely lacking an isolation player who can draw fouls in the NBA Finals last year and now they have that guy. It also doesn't hurt to have a big man who can clean up the glass like Durant can (pulled down 17 rebounds)!
I do feel bad for New Orleans. To have a player like Davis score nearly 100 points for the first two games of the regular season (only player to do that is the Greatest of All Time Michael Jordan) and to lose those two games at home has to be a tough pill to swallow. Clearly Davis doesn't have a strong enough supporting cast and the Pelicans may find themselves struggling to make the postseason.
Now that the Warriors have their first victory, what does the immediate future hold for the men in blue and yellow? Up next are a couple more road games with Portland being a pretty big test. The games against the Trailblazers in last year's Western Conference Semifinals were tight and the Blazers have a lot of talent. It seems that the Warriors will simply have to get used to having an X on their backs after winning a title two seasons ago and winning 73 games a season later.
A part of me is glad that the Warriors lost a game early in this season and also earned a win pretty quickly. This will take some of the edge off since there is pressure to win another title after landing a coveted free agent like Durant. What I am concerned about, however, is the minutes the starters will log given that the bench is devoid of the talent the Warriors had the past two seasons. It truly was an embarrassment of riches since the bench could probably have beaten 80 - 90% of the starting rosters of other NBA teams. The NBA regular season is very long and so is the postseason. I highly doubt the Warriors will be fully healthy in April when the postseason starts if starters like Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green are consistently playing 35+ minutes per game. What made the the 2014 - 2015 championship season so special for the Warriors is that the starters didn't need to play more than 30 minutes on most nights given the incredible depth and talent of the bench. That kept the Warriors sharp in the postseason where they pretty much coasted to an NBA title with just a couple of hiccups along the way.
Last postseason was a real grind for the Warriors since I truly think chasing the regular season record for victories took a toll on the team. I am proud of the fact that the Warriors started last season 24 - 0 and won 73 games. I can probably recall each time they lost last season since basketball fans were enthralled with the notion that a team can break a record that seemed unbreakable when it was set in 1996 by the Chicago Bulls (in my honest opinion still the best team of all time in any major professional sport). However, I would rather have the Warriors win championships than chase records that probably won't mean much several years later.
My hope is that the new faces on the Warriors bench will gel and enable head coach Steve Kerr to rest his star players more frequently. I also hope the perimeter game will get back on track since the Warriors would benefit greatly if the Splash Brothers do what they do best. Still, I am glad we have a new sheriff in town like Durant who can take over a game with a strong interior presence. It is a different kind of team and I am excited to see where they will stand a few weeks from now.