The Heat collides with the NBA’s defending champions, steamrolling juggernaut and best story on Monday night, and the enormity of the challenge can seem almost overwhelming.
It’s difficult enough to beat Golden State anywhere, considering the Warriors are 35-2 this season and 100-17 since the start of last season (116-22 including playoffs).
It’s even more difficult to do it at Oracle Arena in Oakland, where Golden State is 17-0 this season and has reeled off 35 regular-season wins in a row since an overtime loss to Chicago on Jan. 27, 2015. That’s nine short of the NBA record of 44 consecutive home wins, achieved by the Bulls in 1995-96. (The Warriors did lose postseason home games to Memphis and Cleveland.)
“We already know we are going to have to play amazing basketball to be able to win that game,” said Dwyane Wade, who is listed as probable for Monday’s game in the wake of sustaining a strained left shoulder that limited him late in Saturday’s 98-83 loss to Utah.
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Consider what the Warriors have achieved:
▪ They began the season with a 24-game winning streak before losing 108-95 on Dec. 12 in Milwaukee. Star guard Stephen Curry missed their only other loss, a 114-91 setback in Dallas on Dec. 30.
Since then, they’ve won six in a row, scoring 114, 111, 111, 109, 128 and 128 in Saturday’s win at Sacramento, spearheaded by 38 from Curry.
▪ The Warriors are averaging a league-leading 114.5 points per game, well ahead of No. 2 Oklahoma City (108.9).
By comparison, the Heat is 26th at 97.0 per game. But Miami does rank second in points allowed at 94.8 per game, second-best to San Antonio.
▪ Golden State is shooting 42.9 percent on three-pointers, just above the NBA record for a season (42.8, by Charlotte in 1996-97). That’s 4.5 percentage points above No. 2 San Antonio. Conversely, the Heat is 24th in three-point shooting at 32.9 percent. At least the Heat is sixth in three-point defense at 32.3.
“It’s spectacular; they’re playing amazing basketball,” Chris Bosh said. “Eight guys are playing very well. A lot of their guys have come back improved, including their best player.”
Curry, the front-runner for MVP, leads the NBA in scoring at 29.5 per game and is shooting 51 percent from the field and 44.8 percent on threes. He already has set an NBA record by making at least eight three-pointers in a game on seven occasions this season.
“Of course, Steph is going to be dribbling 82 times in 24 seconds,” Bosh said. “He can pass with either hand, can shoot… as soon as he gets in the parking lot. We are going to have to be ready for that.”
Forward Draymond Green has played brilliantly (15.9 points, 9.6 rebounds, 7.4 assists). Shooting guard Klay Thompson is averaging 21.1 points and shooting 43.5 percent on threes.
“They deserve everything they’ve gotten,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “They went through the whole gauntlet last year to finish at the top of the mountain. That says enough. And for them to be on the run they have been on to start this year is nothing short of spectacular.”
Oracle Arena has become perhaps the league’s best homecourt advantage.
“I was there last year [in the Finals] doing the games for ESPN,” Wade said. “It was very, very loud for them. It’s a special place to play for them. It’s always been a great place to play. As a road team as well, you want to be in that kind of environment.”
Eventually, history will judge how these Warriors — coming off their first Finals appearance — will compare to the Big 3 Heat team that made four Finals and won two.
“With us, it was so different,” Bosh said. “They were built different. We came together different. [Their] story is still so much story to be told. They’re just now getting started, really.
“They’ve got a nemesis out there in San Antonio. … I’m sure there’s another team that’s going to give them a run, like L.A. or Dallas or something like that. It’s quite compelling.”
THIS AND THAT
▪ Wade shot 3 for 17 on Saturday, dropping his season percentage to 45.7, which would be the lowest of his career and well off his 48.9 career average. He missed the final 6:18 of the third quarter with a shoulder injury sustained on a crossover before returning to start the fourth.
▪ Hassan Whiteside said his sore right knee is limiting his mobility “a little bit” but “I’m going to keep playing.”
▪ The Heat’s Development League team, the Sioux Falls Skyforce, is 16-3, the best start in league history. The team is 4-0 when Heat guard Josh Richardson is in uniform; he has scored at least 20 in three of those games.
Monday: Heat at Warriors
When/where: 10:30 p.m.; Oracle Arena, Oakland.
TV/radio: SUN; WAXY 790, WAQI 710 (Spanish).
Series: Heat leads 27-26.
Scouting report: The Heat (22-15) is 1-1 on this trip. … Golden State makes 12.9 three-pointers per game; Heat players must be at their sharpest of the season defensively and cannot be slow on rotations. … Dwyane Wade (shoulder) is probable. Josh McRoberts will miss his 18th game in a row with a knee injury. Tyler Johnson (shoulder) is questionable.