LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - NBA champions last season and unbeaten so far in their 2015-16 campaign, the Golden State Warriors are again relying on remarkable resilience, unwavering player trust and clutch three-point shooting down the stretch.
Twice trailing by 23 points and down by 10 with less than five minutes left against the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday night, the Warriors somehow found a way to prevail 124-117 at Staples Center and extend their perfect record to 13-0.
Golden State need just two more wins to match the best start ever to an NBA season, and no one in the league would bet against them given the extraordinary level of trust established by a roster that has barely changed since last season.
“Our confidence, our chemistry, the way we play ... it’s definitely a carry-over from our championship run last year,” Warriors reserve shooting guard Brandon Rush told Reuters after his team had beaten the Clippers for a second time this season.
”There’s definitely a big comfort level there. We run more on instinct with what our coaching staff want from us.
“It’s pretty much the same team we had last season, the same guys, so we know exactly where guys are going to be at, and what plays we are going to run.”
Rush is a veteran of seven years in the league but being part of a team riding a perfect 13-0 run is certainly uncharted territory for him.“It feels really good,” the 30-year-old smiled. “We are focused every game when we step on the court, and we play real hard and we play without selfishness.”
The Clippers know all about Golden State’s never-say-die attitude after squandering comfortable leads against them to lose both of their games against them this season, but Thursday’s comeback by the Warriors left them stunned.
“You just have to tip your hat to them,” said Clippers reserve guard Jamal Crawford, the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year in 2010 and 2014.
“They’ve been in that situation before and they always seem to weather the storm. We came out on fire, we were up by 23 two different times but they didn’t get rattled. They just kept playing.”
Leading the way once again for Golden State was reigning NBA Most Valuable Player Stephen Curry, who scored a game-high 40 points on 11-of-22 shooting, including three threes in the final quarter.
“He’s a problem, he really is,” Crawford said of the daunting challenge of trying to defend Curry, who is blessed with one of the purest shooting strokes in the league.
”At this point, he’s starting to see every defense - whether it’s trapping or whatever.
“The things people don’t see is when we do trap, they have good pieces around him, whether it’s Draymond (Green) or Klay (Thompson) to make a play. (Andre) Iguodala, whoever it might be that night, they do a good job getting them going.”
Should Golden State win their next two games, at home to the Chicago Bulls on Friday and against the Nuggets in Denver on Sunday, they would match the 15-0 season starts made by the 1948-49 Washington Capitols and the 1993-94 Houston Rockets.
”They believe in themselves and they believe in what we are doing,“ Warriors interim head coach Luke Walton said of his team after they had outscored the Clippers 39-26 in the fourth quarter. ”There was never any panic on our bench.
”We had early foul trouble with Steph (Curry) and Draymond (Green) that obviously hurt, but when they were on the bench, they were cheering for the guys that were in.
“It was a great all-round team win and once again showed what type of character these guys have,” added Walton, who has taken over coaching duties from Steve Kerr while he recovers from back surgeries.
The Warriors capped a 67-win season in 2014-15 by clinching their first championship title in 40 years with a 4-2 series victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals.
Editing by Larry Fine