The good news for the San Antonio Spurs is that Tim Duncan, who had soreness in his right knee, was unable to play Monday night when the second-best team in the NBA lost to the best team by 30 points.
The bad news is that to compete with the Golden State Warriors, the Spurs would have needed the 25-year-old Tim Duncan who averaged 25.5 points, 12.7 rebounds, 2.5 blocks and won the 2002 Most Valuable Player award. The 39-year-old Duncan, who is averaging 8.9 points and 7.5 rebounds, would not have helped.
Although the NBA season has at times felt boring, it actually became silly on Monday night – silly good for the Warriors. The Spurs came to Oakland with a 13-game winning streak, a winning percentage of .863 and had allowed opponents to score an average of 89.8 points per game.
They left with their seventh loss of the season and their optimism shattered. By the end of the third quarter, they had already given up 95 points, which was more than they had allowed in 14 full games this season.
Steph Curry had 37 of those, and with a 29-point lead, Curry spent the fourth quarter relaxing on the bench as the Warriors improved to 41-4 with a 120-90 victory. That was the most points the Spurs have allowed this season. The Warriors might as well have been playing the Philadelphia 76ers. Or the Washington Generals.
“As far as toughness and the aggressiveness was concerned, it was men against boys,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich accurately said. “In every facet of the game it was men and boys. We have a long way to go to play with these guys.”
So does everyone else. The Warriors have terrorized the league this season, but the victory over the Spurs took it to a new level. The defending champions are unquestionably better than they were last season when they finished 67-15.
They set an NBA record for best start in a season when they won their first 24 games this season. They had a five-game winning streak before losing their second game and a seven-game winning steak before losing their third. After uncharacteristically dropping two of three and giving would-be challengers faint hope, they’ve won four straight.
The victory came one week after the Warriors humiliated the Cavs by 34 points in Cleveland. That certainly played a large role in David Blatt becoming the first NBA coach to be fired by a team with the best record in its conference. But it was evident the Cavs were not in the same solar system as the Warriors. After the Spurs humiliation, it appears no one else is, either.
And Curry continues to provide evidence that someone 6-3, 190 can be a more dominant player than someone 6-8, 250, who is one of the most remarkable and physically impressive players in NBA history.
After Game 5 of the NBA Finals last year, LeBron James said, “I’m the best player in the world” and no one really argued. At some point a few years earlier, James had not only passed Kobe Bryant as the top player in the game, but last season also marked the fifth consecutive year James took a team to the Finals.
After winning the MVP award, however, Curry has gotten even better. Compare his stats this season (listed first) to last season:
His increase in scoring has been accompanied by a slight decline in assists. He is still extremely unselfish, however. Despite the large volume of shots he takes, he has ranked in the top 10 in assists the last four years. He is currently 13th with 6.5 a game, but the decrease of 1.2 a game from last year is more than made up by his scoring.
If he is not the best player in the game today, he is definitely the player who makes the greatest difference. He continues to redefine how the 3-point shot is employed. He is on track to become the first NBA player in history to average more than 10 shots from 3-point range per game, and he does it with accuracy almost unmatched.
Curry currently ranks second in NBA history with a 3-point percentage of .442. Steve Kerr, his coach, is managing to hold on to bragging rights with a .454 percentage. But Curry has taken almost twice as many 3-pointers (3,165) as Kerr (1,599). If Curry continues to make 3-pointers at the same rate he is making them this season, he will eventually pass Kerr.
Curry toyed with the Spurs, producing a month’s worth of highlights in one game. He left 2014-15 defensive player of the year Kawhi Leonard grasping at air more than once, caused Patty Mills to nearly sprain two ankles on one play and drilled 3s several times without bothering to get within five feet of the 3-point line.
His 37 points came on 12-of-20 field goals, including 6-of-9 from 3-point range. He also had five steals and three assists. He did all that in 28 minutes.
When greatness is attained in sports, there is always an exercise in comparing a player to one of a previous era. With some, it’s not possible. Curry is one of those. Considering his showmanship, his unselfishness, his offensive production and his ability to shoot, he is like a combination of Steve Nash, Pete Maravich, Ray Allen and Tiny Archibald. And more.
But there is something else about him that is unique and it was evident Monday night. He even makes blowouts fun to watch. Spurs fans would obviously disagree, but for basketball fans, trying to anticipate what Curry might do next even after the Warriors had a big lead was fascinating.
In the last two regular seasons, the Warriors are a combined 117-19. So if they win their next two games, they will be 100 games over .500 since the beginning of the 2014-15 season.
This truly has gotten silly. The Warriors are laughably good.
Jan Hubbard has written about basketball since 1976 and worked in the NBA league office for eight years between media stints. Follow him on Twitter at @whyhub.