The success of the Golden State Warriors reminds Erik Spoelstra of the Miami Heat in its “Big 3” glory years, at least in one way. Just like those uber-talented Heat teams he coached to a pair of NBA titles, the Warriors aren’t merely great. They’re breathtaking to behold.
“It’s beautiful to watch,” Spoelstra said. “When they’re playing at their highest level, it’s almost as if they’re playing a different sport than everybody else.”
Although the Heat is riding its first three-game winning streak of the season, the Warriors will roll into Miami on a seven-game win streak for Monday’s game at AmericanAirlines Arena.
At 38-6, the Warriors are not far off their NBA-record 73-win season of a season ago. They were 40-4 at this stage last season. And with the addition of Kevin Durant to a star-studded ensemble that includes Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, the Warriors are showing no signs of a letdown.
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“We know they’re going to put up a lot of shots,” Heat guard Dion Waiters said. “They move a lot. They make you play defense for 24 seconds. You can’t fall asleep.”
The Warriors are averaging 118 points per game, which not only tops the NBA but also is a four-point improvement over last year’s scoring rate. If there were any doubts as to how Durant would blend in with Curry and the rest, they’ve been quieted and rather emphatically.
The Heat made it a contest when it faced the Warriors two weeks ago, leading at halftime before losing 107-95, and have been relatively competitive in recent meetings. The Warriors beat the Heat by eight and six points, respectively, in their two meetings last season.
“But in terms of success against them, at the end of the day we haven’t beat them either,” Spoelstra said.
Either the Heat or the Warriors have reached the NBA Finals in each of the previous six seasons, with the Heat capturing two titles and the Warriors just one.
But the similarities between the two teams end beyond those achievements.
Waiters and Heat guard Goran Dragic have gone against both teams at their best and said there’s no comparison in terms of style and pace of play.
“When Miami had the Big 3 they didn’t shoot that many jump shots,” Waiters said of Heat teams that revolved around LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. “Golden State, they shoot from damn near half court. Everybody’s doing a bunch of threes. With the Big 3, it was more inside out. With Golden State, it’s more outside in.”
Said Dragic when comparing the two teams: “Totally different styles. They like to play fast. They don’t care. They can’t shoot it in the first five seconds, first 10 seconds. They like to score. When the Big 3 was here, I feel like they were more half-court.”
But Spoelstra noted one distinct similarity between the two: the dedication to teamwork, especially on the defensive end.
“I think getting elite level players to sacrifice and play team basketball and really commit to the defensive end, you have to really commend them,” Spoelstra said.
▪ Tyler Johnson is listed as questionable for Monday’s game because of a strained left shoulder.
Johnson underwent surgery on the same shoulder last season, forcing him to miss the final 26 games of the regular season and first six games of the playoffs.
“It’s not the same pain as it was last year,” said Johnson, who sat out Saturday’s game. “It’s just like a strain. Coming in [Sunday], it feels a lot better. I’m optimistic about it.”
Johnson has not undergone a MRI. But he acknowledged that the shoulder is still in recovery stage from the surgery.
“It’s still like about a year since the date that it happened,” Johnson said. “It’s still an injury that is recovering. It’s still an injury that I’ve got to continue to strengthen and do my rehab with.”
Monday: Warriors at Heat
When/where: 7:30 p.m.; AmericanAirlines Arena.
TV/radio: SUN; WAXY 790, WAQI 710 (Spanish).
Series: Warriors lead 29-27.
Scouting report: The Warriors won this season’s first meeting 107-95 and each of the past five. The last Heat win over the Warriors was a 111-110 thriller in Miami on Feb. 12, 2014. … Golden State’s Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson each made seven three-pointers in Sunday’s win over Orlando.