The Vindication Tour rolls on with a vengeance.
The Warriors made history Sunday night with their 15th consecutive victory, this one a 118-105 laugher against the Enver Nuggets — sorry, there’s no D in Denver. They became the third team to start 15-0 in NBA history.
To appreciate what the Champs have done, consider that the regular season turns 50 days old today, and they still haven’t lost a game.
Wonder what James Harden, Doc Rivers and the rest of the haters around the league think now?
“Awesome,” interim coach Luke Walton called the historic moment.
“We feel like we still have a lot left to prove,” Harrison Barnes told reporters in Denver. “A lot was said in the summer about our team, and that motivated us to come back this season stronger.”
Nuggets coach Michael Malone tried everything to inspire his players in this one. He went so far as to call their perimeter defense “a joke” after the Phoenix Suns burned them for 15 3-pointers a few days earlier.
Really, when was the last time an NBA coach said that about his team and didn’t get assaulted or fired?
As expected, the Nuggets put up some resistance in the first half before the Warriors really got serious. Stephen Curry was lucky to score 19 points — the first time he failed to put up at least 20 this season — yet the deepest team in the league could have named its score if Walton hadn’t called off the dogs early.
“To take care of business 15 straight times at the start the season, I mean, we couldn’t have asked for a better start, obviously,” said Curry, who added, “Since we’re here, we might as well get [the streak] done. Since we’re at 15, we might as well get 16. That’s the next step. I’m excited about that challenge [against the Los Angeles Lakers] on Tuesday.”
Of course, the Warriors won’t be judged on the regular season. The bar has been set so sky high, anything short of a repeat championship will be considered a failure.
But if the Champs win ’em all, Balls like their chances a lot.
NO COINCIDENCE: The Warriors have produced some crazy statistics in the early season. Here’s one more: They entered the game with the league’s top five players in plus-minus rating: Curry (plus 190), Draymond Green (181), Andre Iguodala (164), Barnes (149) and Klay Thompson (137).
The group also happens to be the Warriors’ so-called smallball lineup, which may be the best in the 3-point era, it says here.
DERAILED IN DETROIT: The thoroughly uninspired Raiders lost a game in Detroit that they almost had to have, 18-13, and the outcome had zero to do with talent and everything to do with a lack of leadership. Start with coach Jack De Rio, proceed to his assistants then move down to the veteran players, Charles Woodson excluded.
There was zero excuse to come out flat against a lousy Lions team in the 58th year of a rebuild project. Score early and the Raiders would have turned the crowd against the homies. Instead, Pride and Poise lollygagged their way through the first half, and that gave the Lions some real hope that they actually could win the game.
At some point, somebody, anybody in black and silver had to step up and light a fire under his team. Where was the Bill Romanowski-like forearm shiver when they needed it? Now the Raiders have three consecutive losses and a 4-6 record, and all that optimism in the early season seems like so much smoke and mirrors.
WHERE’S COOP? Maybe Raiders rookie Amari Cooper will have to wait a while for his Hall of Fame induction, after all.
In his worst performance as a pro, Cooper was a non-factor from start to finish. He caught one pass for four yards and flubbed another. His eight drops are tied for the league lead this season.
“For (Cooper) to come out of a game with one catch, we’ve got to do a better job there,” Del Rio said.
Cooper appeared to be lethargic, possibly the result of a vicious hit that he took against the Minnesota Vikings one week earlier. More likely, the kid has hit the rookie wall. At Alabama, he played 34 regular-season games in three seasons, so Week 11 was about the time one would expect him to feel it. He hasn’t been through this kind of grind before.
Whatever the case, Cooper better get his focus back, because the offense sure isn’t the same without him.
JUST SAYIN’: If anyone can lend Del Rio a clue about when and when not to call timeouts, then Balls bets a lot Raiders fans will be in favor of it.
HOLE IN DYKES?: If Cal officials seem a bit reluctant to extend the contract of Sonny Dykes past the 2017 season, then the latest Big Game may have offered another hint for it. Stanford attempted only a dozen passes and still gained 365 yards in a 35-22 victory, which didn’t quiet the talk that he would be a better NFL coordinator than major college coach.
There’s no question that Dykes knows offense. From an entertainment standpoint, he has taken Cal to another level even if there still are too many empty seats at Memorial Stadium on most game days.
But if Cal intends to be a legitimate Pac-12 North contender in the near future, then it had better pack a defense, an area in which Dykes and coordinator Art Kaufman have come up short the last two seasons. The Bears rank 102nd in total defense out of 127 teams in the country. To take the next step, that can’t continue.
Meanwhile, Cal appears to be headed to Phoenix for either the Armed Forces Bowl or Cactus Bowl.
KEEP US HANGIN’ ON: Stanford coach David Shaw doesn’t want to hear this, but with a victory over a vulnerable Notre Dame team at home this weekend, the Cardinal may be in position to steal one of the two College Football Playoff berths up for grabs right now.
The best guess is that Stanford will be ranked either ninth or 10th in the updated weekly rankings. Notre Dame figures to be either third or fourth. A victory over the Irish coupled with some help from above could put the Cardinal on the brink. Baylor, Florida, Iowa, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State also face potentially difficult tests this weekend.
For now, this much is for certain: Stanford will play the winner of the USC-UCLA showdown in the Pac-12 championship game on Dec. 5 at Levi’s Stadium.
SMART MAN: Sharks coach Peter DeBoer returned to the bench on Sunday after a one-game absence. Or soon enough not to get Steve Kerred.
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