OAKLAND — The Warriors’ inexorable march to greatness had started to limp. The Oracle Arena crowd came to watch their team make history Wednesday night, but the visiting Memphis Grizzlies, apparently unaware of their assigned role as patsies, had the audacity to take a 14-12 lead about five minutes into the game.
The Warriors’ reply began gradually. Draymond Green scored inside. Stephen Curry, after a hard foul by Memphis’ Matt Barnes, sank a couple of free throws. Andre Iguodala made a beautiful pass to the cutting Klay Thompson for another basket and an 18-14 lead. Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger called timeout, because he knew what might be about to happen.
And then it happened anyway. When play resumed, after a short jumper by Memphis’ Zach Randolph, Curry blasted a 3-pointer from dead-on, 31 feet away from the basket. Then he made one from 26 feet off a pass from Green. Then he dribbled behind his back to lose the man guarding him, Xavier Munford, and capped another from 27 feet. The three shots happened in a span of 57 seconds.
Joerger called another timeout, but in a sense it was too late. In 3 minutes and 22 seconds, the Warriors had turned a deficit into a comfortable 27-16 lead. The Grizzlies would never get closer than nine points for the rest of the evening, and Golden State would wrap up a 73-9 regular-season record, the greatest in NBA history.
And it all started with that first-quarter blitz.
“We do pack a good punch every once in a while,” Curry said.
Yeah, these Warriors, who start their postseason run against the Houston Rockets Saturday, are the George Foreman of basketball. They have their dry spells, their off nights, their bouts of sloppiness. Usually, all it takes is one haymaker to set things right. And it can happen so fast that you aren’t sure what you just witnessed.
On Dec. 8, the Warriors outscored Indiana 22-0 over a span of about 4½ minutes of the second quarter.
On Dec. 28, they led the lowly Kings by just two points in the third quarter, until a technical foul on Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins sparked a 9-0 run that lasted 1:13. After the briefest of lulls, Golden State scored another six points in exactly one minute. All in all, a two-point deficit turned into a 13-point lead in 2:49.
On Jan. 18, in a big showdown with the defending Eastern Conference champion Cavaliers, the Warriors sprinted to a 12-2 lead in the first 2:11. Just to show it wasn’t a fluke, they began the second half with a 9-0 run that took 1:27. They won 132-98.
On Feb. 27, Curry hit three 3-pointers in 80 seconds at Oklahoma City, with Mo Speights adding a basket inside, to cut the Warriors’ deficit from 40-30 to 42-41 in the second quarter. They added an 8-0 spree late in the fourth quarter, and eventually won in overtime.
On March 12, the Warriors trailed Phoenix 95-86 entering the fourth quarter in Oakland, then immediately outscored the Suns 7-0 in less than a minute. Then Phoenix fought back to go up 108-105 with 5:50 left. Then Golden State ran off 14 consecutive points in 3:23 and won 123-116.
On April 3, they were having trouble shaking the Trail Blazers until Thompson keyed a 9-0 burst that lasted 50 seconds. The Warriors wound up winning by 25 points.