There are no statement games in the first week of November.
But Golden State came just about as close to making one as a team can Wednesday night.
The Warriors shot the ball well — 60 percent from three for the game — and defended well. Golden State looked every bit the contender and the best team in the Pacific Division.
The Clippers, who have fancied themselves contenders, continued their season-long trend (well, just five games but still) of playing disinterested, sloppy ball.
Los Angeles finally paid a price for that malaise — a 121-104 easy win for the Warriors that wasn’t even that close. The Warriors went on a 14-2 run midway through the first quarter and never looked back, leading by 29 early in the third quarter. The Warriors had 65 first half points and 102 after three quarters. The Clippers’ Jamal Crawford helped spark a garbage-time run — and the entire fourth quarter was garbage time — to make the score look more respectable, But it wasn’t.
This was an old-school beatdown.
Reading too much into any one game in November is foolish, but there are two things worth taking away here.
First, the Warriors may be legit title contenders. They came into the season considered a team on the fringe of contending (a step behind the Clippers) but Steve Kerr has them still playing strong defense — 90.5 points allowed per 100 possessions so far this season, best in the NBA. Second, they are running smarter, more complex sets that better use the personnel on their roster. The rest was Stephen Curry going 4-of-8 from three, Klay Thompson hitting 3-of-4, and the starting backcourt finishing with 47 points on 31 shots. Curry abused CP3 off the dribble all night.
The Warriors other guys are stepping up, too — Draymond Green started (David Lee came off the bench and tweaked his hamstring again) and finished with 24 points on 13 shots. The result of this is a Top 10 offense so far (again, it’s early).
Teams with top 10 offenses and defenses are title contenders. If the Warriors keep playing like this they are that.
The Clippers are a long way from contending — and Doc Rivers is very frustrated. This is not a team building off last year, it looks like a team starting from scratch. From Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports and Dan Woike of the Orange County Register:
The Clippers offense seems to miss Alvin Gentry — now the lead Warriors assistant coach to Kerr — as this season it has been stagnant. The Clippers defensive rotations have been and were again sloppy. But most of all this team is just not playing with any heart, any fire. That’s not on Doc Rivers, that’s on Blake Griffin and Chris Paul. They need to lead.
The Warriors are playing with fire — they lost to the Clippers in the playoffs last year and that lit a fire under this team, one that Kerr is turning into an inferno.
It wasn’t a statement game from Golden State and the Clippers have a lot of time to figure things out.
But right now, Golden State is lightyears ahead of where Los Angeles is. We’ll see if things feel different when these teams meet on Christmas Day.