There’s a different vibe around the Golden State Warriors this season than in the past two.
The two-time defending champions remain as dominant as ever, but they’re playing with the sort of looseness and fun-loving attitude that made them not just entertaining, but likable before their heel turn when Kevin Durant joined an already-established juggernaut in the summer of 2016.
Expectations are still sky-high as well, but the Warriors don’t look like a team burdened with any pressure, rather one that is completely comfortable in its own skin.
That wasn’t the case the previous two years when Golden State felt the need to lean in to their villainy as they adjusted to life with Durant and slogged through the schedule before their real season started in the playoffs. The results were still there – 125 regular-season wins and two championships – but some of the joy that was in abundance in 2014-15 and 2015-16 appeared to be missing.
That hasn’t been the case at all in the early part of this season.
The Warriors have only gotten through eight games, but they’ve shown almost no signs of mental or physical fatigue from coming off another long title run.
Not only are they winning (7-1), they’re doing it in style.
On Tuesday, Klay Thompson put on a show to break teammate Stephen Curry’s NBA record for most 3-pointers in a game, splashing 14 en route to 52 points in Golden State’s 149-124 demolition of the Chicago Bulls.
The Warriors shooting guard didn’t even see the floor in the fourth quarter with the result in hand as he did all of his damage in just 27 minutes of action.
It was reminiscent of the night Thompson poured in 60 points in 29 minutes on the Indiana Pacers back in December 2016.
No other player in NBA history has ever scored 50-plus points in 30 minutes or fewer. Thompson has done it twice now.
His explosion was just a continuation of the fun Golden State have been having of late, coming on the heels of Curry and Kevin Durant having their own moment in the spotlight.
It was Curry who kicked things off by draining 11 3-pointers for 51 points in three quarters against the Washington Wizards on October 25.
Durant then followed that up by scoring 41 points against the New York Knicks, including 25 in the fourth quarter, in the very next game.
According to Elias Sports Bureau, Golden State are the 50th team in NBA history to have three different 40-point scorers in a season, but they’ve done it quicker than anyone (eight games) and two of those performances featured 50-point efforts that came in just three quarters of play.
It speaks to how awe-inspiring and captivating the Warriors can be when even one of their stars is clicking on a given night.
“It feels like year five of coaching the Golden State Warriors,” Kerr said. “Seriously. This is what it’s been like. I can’t even tell you how lucky I am and how I feel every night just watching these guys and how unselfish they are. They basically take turns, they encourage each other, they want each other to do well, and we have all this talent, but the key is these guys are committed to each other, they play hard for each other, and they want each other to have success, and that’s why it works, and it’s been amazing to be along for the ride.”
That identity has never gotten away from Golden State, but it has wavered for brief moments. Right now though, it’s as strong as ever.