By Ponciano Melo
SAN FRANCISCO -- It was supposed to be a battle between Western Conference heavyweights, a preview of what could be the two teams standing in June when a seat in the NBA Finals is at stake.
But the duel turned out to be anti-climactic as the Golden State Warriors dealt the visiting Phoenix Suns, then on the crest of a francise-best 18-game winning streak, a lopsided 118-96 defeat at the Chase Center in downtown San Francisco.
Steph Curry unloaded 23 points, highlighted by a 6-for-11 fare from long distance, Andrew Wiggins and Gary Payton Jr each tallied 16 points as Golden State improved to 19-4. Two nights later, the Warriors walloped the Orlando Magic, 126-95, to improve to 20-4 and share the best record of the league with the Suns.
The ease with which Golden State dismantled Phoenix -- blasting them 29-21 in the opening quarter and finishing it off with a 38-28 kick in the final period -- provided sufficient evidence to conclude that the Steve Kerr-coached Warriors are the team to beat in the upcoming playoffs.
How good are these Warriors?
Pretty good, really.
With Curry leading the charge at 27.7 points per game and Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole combining for 36.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and 5.2 assists per, the Warriors have a very dynamic offense that is ranked No.3 in the NBA by scoring 113.6 an outing.
But it is on defense that these Warriors stand out the best.
They are No.1 in points allowed per game (100.6) and No.7 in defensive rating (99.7).
The ability to stop the opposition is key because as the old dictum says, "defense wins championships."
Their may be flashes in similarities when it comes to scoring runs, versatility, and bench depth but the 2017-18 Warriors were in a league of their own.
With Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson healthy that season, norming a combined 46.4 points per, the Warriors swept the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals that season. That team's depth included a huge lift from seasoned veterans Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala, who returned to the Bay Area this past off-season.
Hard to top that 2017-18 team but with Curry on board this year and Klay set to come back from a long injury rehab soon, these present Warriors obviuosly have the tools to win it all.
There's a long way to go, but they're on the right path.