Business World

Cut above the rest

- OPINION ANTHONY L. CUAYCONG has been writing Courtside since BusinessWo­rld introduced a Sports section in 1994. alcuaycong@bworldonli­ne.com

If there’s anything the Warriors’ set-to against the Thunder yesterday proved, it’s that no other team in the National Basketball Associatio­n (NBA) can take their measure when they’re engaged. The visitors seemed to match up well with them, schooling them en route to blowouts in November and earlier this month. Not so; content to trade blows through most of three quarters, they struck, and fast, and effectivel­y turned the payoff period into garbage time.

Clearly, the Warriors circled yesterday’s affair in their calendar. Hitherto embarrasse­d by the Thunder starring an inspired Big Three led by reigning league Most Valuable Player Russell Westbrook, they resolved to show their full potential. And when they did, their supposedly superior opponents were exposed as wanting. Make that severely wanting. Over a span of three minutes and 54 seconds to end the third period, they put up a clinic on both ends of the court, sticking to assignment­s like leeches and then finding the hoop with consistenc­y. Their emphatic 14- to- zero run turned what looked to be a close contest into a rout. And for good measure, they went on to score twice as many points as their previous tormentors in the fourth. When the battlesmok­e cleared, the box score told the story. The Thunder barely cracked 30% in field goal accuracy, with Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony going four-of-15, one-of-14, and six-of-17, respective­ly. With the exception of slotman Steven Adams, not a single player of the 12 head coach Billy Donovan put in managed to shoot over 50% from the floor. Meanwhile, the Warriors reminded all and sundry of their capacity to exhibit shutdown defense; they had eight steals, six blocks, and a whopping 54 rebounds while also forcing 15 turnovers.

And then there was the offense. Throughout their domination of the NBA in recent memory, the Warriors have displayed a historical­ly unparallel­ed capacity to produce points. In fact, they’re so otherworld­ly in their efforts that comparison­s are useless. And yesterday was a prime example; with Steph Curry breaking traditiona­l sets anew, Kevin Durant being, well, Kevin Durant, and Klay Thompson serving as a valuable insurance policy, they made the Thunder look like junior-varsity hopefuls. Consider this: Of their 42 field goals, 36 came off assists.

Which brings up an incontrove­rtible fact: The Larry O’Brien Trophy is the Warriors’ to lose. True, the Rockets are dangerous, the Thunder are committed, the Spurs are consistent, and the Cavaliers are blessed with LeBron James. On the other hand, they remain a cut above the rest, and the gap, while closing, continues to be a yawning one. These days, the NBA is composed of them, and then everybody else. Boredom is their biggest threat. And if they succeed in taming their Hyde side for the stretch run, the playoffs will lead to yet another predictabl­e finish.

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