We had a chance to chat with Jeff Cheal at Golden State of Mind and asked 5 questions about his Warriors. Here's what Jeff had to say about the 46-4 Dubs as they get set to take on the Rockets tonight.
You can see my answers to the questions from Golden State of Mind here.
1. Plenty of people scoffed last season when Golden State was mentioned as one of the top teams of all time. The Warriors have responded by being even more dominant so far this year. What's been the biggest factor in not only maintaining that dominance, but improving upon it?
Jeff Cheal: The Warriors have never settled for being good enough or being happy with their success. They went into the offseason with a plan — to prove to teams that last season wasn't a fluke. They have seen steady improvement from even their established stars: Stephen Curry has shown drastic improvement to his MVP season, Draymond Green has become an All-Star and a key cog to the team. and Klay Thompson has not only improved his defensive game, but also his offensive game in new ways. The whole roster continues to jell, and it shows with an efficient, unselfish offense that continually averages over 30 dimes per game.
They knew they would get the best efforts from the same teams that said, "If this guy was healthy..." and so far, they have turned away every challenger. The coaching staff behind Steve Kerr and Luke Walton (who ran the team for more than half the season) does an amazing job keeping these guys prepared every night, consistently making adjustments for every counter teams throw at them. It truly is a privilege to see every night.
2. The Warriors are currently on pace to finish 75-7, which would surpass the '96 Chicago Bulls for for best regular season mark of all-time. Is this pace sustainable through the end of the season for the record? And if it's close coming down the stretch, will players be rested or for the playoffs or do they go all in for the mark?
JC: The record has been looming ever since the Warriors started the season on their big, record-setting winning streak. Talk to any player, and they would rather have another title than the wins record. This still won't stop them from aiming for the top mark, but the early-season streak took a big toll on the minutes for the starters.
The team lost Klay Thompson when he re-entered an early-season match up when Walton was afraid of losing in Indiana. The bench took the blame that game, with Shaun Livingston saying, "this one was on us not to close."
The team will only hit the mark if the bench continues to help support the starters — beating the Bulls' mark cannot come with killing the active roster health and minutes-wise. If it is close, I still think Steve Kerr will rest starters towards the end of the year.
3. The Warriors have owned the Rockets over the last two seasons, going 10-1 against them in the regular season and playoffs combined. What's the biggest edge the Dubs have on the Rockets that's led to such a lopsided record between the two teams these last two years?
JC: As these two rosters have matured, the Warriors have seemed to find great matchups in their head-to-heads. James Harden always seems to show up against Golden State, and the Warriors will throw Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala at him at every chance. With that said, the Rockets have had no answer for the Warriors' multitude of scorers.
I believe the real key has been that the Rockets have struggled to play defense and haven't put up much of a challenge to the Warriors on the defensive side of the ball. The Warriors scored over 110 points in both of their two matchups this year, both at Houston, where the Rockets have played pretty well this year. To beat the Warriors, they will have to do what they've struggled to do against all teams this season — stop the ball and limit their opponent. The Rockets can score plenty, but they can't be constantly coming from behind.
4. Golden State has been mentioned as a possible free agency destination for Kevin Durant for a while now, and those rumors are starting to heat back up again. It'd be near-impossible to pass up on a player such as Durant if the opportunity presents itself, but with a team that thrives so much on preternatural chemistry, is a major addition like that something Warriors fans would like to see happen?
JC: Durant rumors have done a great job of exciting Warriors fans across the Bay Area. Ever since Dwight Howard was rumored to be taking meetings with Golden State a few years ago, the front office has made it clear that this team is a potential destination for all free agents, which is a big difference from the early '90s, when free agents couldn't run away fast enough.
These Durant rumors are probably more speculation and guess than reality and do more to give Durant value to the league and other teams than to the Warriors. Why would Golden State break up their core to get a player like Durant? KD is a generational star, but at the price they would pay to get him — losing Bogut, Livingston, Iguodala, etc. to gut the core to clear enough salary space — you are talking more of a fantasy basketball team than a real NBA team.
Sure, if Durant wants to take a salary cut to to help keep the team intact, but I would take more of a guess that he stays in Oklahoma City and we get to see more great Thunder-Warriors games than for the league to be scared that Durant ends up in the Bay, but it sure is fun to dream, right?
5. We all know the Warriors are the clear championship favorites at this point; a repeat is pretty easy to envision. But what is the most likely scenario that has them not winning the title this year?
JC: The Warriors are only the favorites because they have the best record. The Spurs still feature a historically good record this season, which would be the top story across the league if the Warriors were not what they are. The Thunder have been coming on strong recently, and besides the Warriors beating them this past weekend, they won't lie down quietly. The Cavs are looking to retool and should be hungry for revenge in the playoffs. Heck, even the Raptors and the Clippers are showing strong going into the break. The fact is, the Warriors have a tough path to the finals, and any team can beat them. The key: I'm not sure if anyone can beat them 4 out 7, especially with their home court advantage.
The only thing that could hold them back? Injuries.
Golden State just lost Festus Ezeli, a core piece off the bench and a defensive stopper that helps aging Andrew Bogut not play too many minutes. This could figure key if he is out for a long period of time and scratches and nicks like that will wear a team down as the season goes on.
If they don't win the title, it won't be for lack of effort. It will be because a few balls don't bounce their way and the luck of fate with avoiding injuries catches up with them.
Thanks again to Jeff Cheal of Golden State mind for spending a few minutes with us chatting Warriors - Rockets. For more on the Warriors, make sure to check out Golden State of Mind.