The Golden State Warriors started off this season 24-0. Needless to say, very impressive stuff. Their first loss came at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks, but was understandable. That particular game was the 7th in a brutal seven game road trip that had the Warriors travelling all over the country.
[It should be noted no NBA team -- ever -- has swept a 7 game road trip.]
They would recover from that loss to reel off another 5 game winning streak. Then they got torched in Dallas. OK, those things happen, and the Mavs aren't too shabby in their own right. They had a terrific game and the Warriors a bad one. Still, Golden State was an eye-popping 29-2.
They would then go on another 7-game winning streak. Mysteriously, the Warriors would then get narrowly beaten at the not-so-good Denver Nuggets. No matter. A 36-3 record was pretty difficult to criticize. Predictably, they would pound the woeful LA Lakers in the next game.
Then something very strange happened. Golden State would visit the Detroit Pistons, just another of several mediocre teams in the NBA Eastern Conference. The Motowners -- who don't even play in Motown -- were decided underdogs. But they rared up and put an 18 point thumping on Golden State. Nobody saw that coming. The Pistons beat THOSE guys by 18 points? Really?
But on second thought, perhaps it was understandable. The Warriors didn't take them seriously and got caught looking ahead to ---
A rematch with the Cleveland Cavaliers two days later.
How soon we forget, but the 2015 NBA Finals between these two teams had a lot of story lines. The first two games -- both @ Golden State -- went into overtime, and the teams split. Cleveland would take Game 3 at home to go up 2-1 in the series.
Let's also not forget Cleveland was playing without the services of all-starrish Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving, and big man Anderson Varejo. Lebron James, like his earlier days in Cleveland, was trying to pull off a stupendous feat almost single-handedly. Plus, the Cavs had a highly questionable rookie coach they had imported from abroad who had ZERO NBA experience.
As we know, James couldn't pull it off back in his early Lake Erie days, and it turned out he wouldn't pull it off in the Finals last year either. The Warriors would convincingly win games 4-5-6 to become champions.
But this was a different deal. Kevin, Kyrie, Anderson, and everybody else on the Cleveland roster was healthy and raring to go. At home, with millions watching on TV, this was Cleveland's chance to send a message to Golden State.
"You got us in the Finals last year when we were short-handed. Let's try this one more time, especially on our court".
And hadn't the Warriors been trashed by the lowly Detroit Pistons only a couple days before? Surely they were vulnerable. Should have been a helluva game.
It was, if you like blow-outs. Golden State waltzed into Cleveland and did a lot of things. They played terrific team defense. When their shooters weren't raining 3s on the Cavs, they were fast breaking up the floor for dunks and layups.
When it was finally mercifully over, the defending champs had put a 34 point blistering on the Cavs in their own back yard. Had they not sent their starters to the bench for the entire fourth quarter, it might have been 50.
So that poses a question? Who ARE these guys?
They can get trounced by a second tier team like the Pistons on one night, then two days later make mincemeat out of a fully healthy Cavalier team that had every motivation in the world to come out and show the world what they are capable of?
My answer to the above "who are these guys" question would be this.....
Beats the heck out of me. They're beatable, sometimes when one would least expect it to happen. But when they get it going, even and especially against good teams, look out.
Know what's really going to be interesting? Coming up soon, the Warriors will play home and away games against the San Antonio Spurs. Don't look now, but while Golden State has noisily racked up their gaudy 38-4 record, coach Pop's team has quietly cruised along to the tune of 36-6.
Those battles of the titans will be must-see games. More than likely a preview of the NBA Western Conference final. Who's going to beat either one of them in a seven game series during the playoff preliminaries?
Meanwhile, Lebron and Co. might be the beast of the East, but suffering a 34 point beat down at home isn't mysterious at all. The best of the West is clearly superior.