BOSTON – There have been plenty of people in the past who have called for the NBA to delay the start of their regular season until Christmas. No one is paying attention, they’d say. The conglomerates that are the NFL and major college football take up all the oxygen in the room, they’d argue. No one cares about NBA games in November and December, they’d exclaim.
The Golden State Warriors have taken all of those arguments and smashed them with a barrage of three-pointers, a slew of slick passes and an ever-growing pile of wins to begin the 2015-16 campaign. Following Friday’s heart-stopping, 124-119 double-overtime victory over the Boston Celtics in front of a raucous sellout crowd of 18,624 inside TD Garden, the defending champions are 24-0 to start the NBA season, and in doing so have become the biggest story in sports.
Yes, that’s right: An NBA team in December is a bigger deal than the Carolina Panthers being undefeated, the upcoming college football playoff or baseball’s winter meetings. It might only be six weeks into the NBA season, but America is glued to Golden State’s every move.
“We appreciate it along the way, but the beauty of our team is when we get out there, nobody is thinking, ‘If we lose, the streak’s over,’ or, ‘We’ve got to go out here and throw a huge home run play out in the first quarter to win the game, or what have you, to keep the streak going,’ ” said Stephen Curry, who wasn’t anywhere near his best yet still finished with 38 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists in just under 47 minutes.
“That’s not on our mind. I think that’s why we are where we are.”
It might not be on the Warriors’ minds – though that’s hard to believe – but it most certainly is on the mind of every sports fan in America, and on the minds of many who aren’t into sports at all. Golden State has become a traveling circus, an act that you simply have to see whenever it comes through your town. That’s why every road game feels like a playoff game for the Warriors, with the crowd Friday night inside TD Garden giving the hometown Celtics the kind of boost they would for a game in May or June. That’s why, at minimum, hundreds of fans show up two hours before games – just to watch Curry go through his pregame shooting routine.
And that’s why every game has become must-see TV these days, as the Warriors, who have now won 28 games in a row including four wins to close last season, continue chasing history. That is even the case on nights like Friday night, one of the rare occasions when Golden State isn’t on national television these days.
So, as the game wore on, slowly morphing into an instant classic that many more than the nearly 20,000 fans inside the arena here will claim they were at, people tried to watch in all sorts of different ways. Some watched at home on their computers, pulling up NBA League Pass – although the service was lagging for some, undoubtedly under the strain of trying to keep up with the demand for this game. Some went out to bars, finding one with access to the game and watching throughout.
Others, though, simply texted friends who were at the game, hoping for any update they could get. These are the kinds of things people do when the NBA gets to June, when the NBA Finals are taking place. This isn’t something that happens in December, in the middle of Week 14 of the NFL season. But that’s what the Warriors have done. From Curry, not only the league’s most valuable player but it’s most likable personality, to Draymond Green, the do-it-all forward with a million dollar smile and wit to match, to Luke Walton, the interim head coach filling in for Steve Kerr as he continues to recover from complications from back surgery, the Warriors continue to captivate America in ways that no one could have ever imagined an NBA team would at this time of year.
For long stretches of Friday’s game, the Warriors looked like they could be in trouble. Without two starters in Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes – both nursing sprained ankles – and with reserve Leandro Barbosa coming back after missing Tuesday’s win in Indiana with an illness, Golden State had its hands full with a deep, athletic Boston team that many had pegged as the potential squad to end the Warriors’ season-opening streak.
But despite trailing by five with two minutes to go in the fourth quarter, and then trailing at various points in both overtime periods, the Warriors – as they have all nine times they’ve trailed in the fourth quarter of a game this season – found a way to persevere to yet another victory in the end. Curry struggled all game, going 9 for 27, but he hit shots when it counted, including a long three-pointer in the final minute of regulation to put Golden State back on top. Meanwhile, Green did literally everything on his way to putting up 24 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists, five steals and five blocks – a line only two players, Hakeem Olajuwon and Derrick Coleman – have ever accomplished in NBA history, or at least since the league began keeping track of blocks in the 1970s.
“We had every excuse to give up a game tonight,” Warriors big man Andrew Bogut said. “Lineup changes, long road trip, all that kind of stuff. And you give them a lot of credit – they played very, very well, and they’re an unbelievably coached team.
“[But] we’ve been through those wars the past couple years. We’ve been on the other end of them two years ago, and I think guys like Steph and Klay and Draymond step up for us in those moments. I think these games, coming from NBA Finals series and playoff games, now those guys aren’t affected by it because we’ve done it at the highest level. We have that championship notch on our belts. It breeds a lot of confidence.”
That confidence sent the Warriors out of TD Garden with a victory, and on to Milwaukee for a game Saturday night to try to make it 25 in a row to start this magical season. The NBA announced late Friday night that Saturday’s game will be on NBA TV, and you can be assured that fans from all around the country – be it in their homes or out on the town for the night – will be tuning in to see whether this run at history continues.
‘We’re having a blast chasing history,” Curry said.
The rest of us are having just as much fun watching it. The Warriors have taken over, and we’re all just along for the ride.