The players of the San Antonio Spurs could not keep up with their opponents, whose players sported blue and gold jerseys that flashed between the defense. The Spurs, who are the second-ranked team in the National Basketball League (NBA), were being destroyed on the court. Their opposition: the seemingly unstoppable Golden State Warriors.
Over the course of a few years, the Warriors have integrated young talent and an aggressive play style to form an unstoppable team. The Warriors’ matchup against The Spurs on Jan. 25, 2016 showed off their progress and greatest strengths. Their fast-moving and unpredictable ball movement confused the Spurs defense, opening up the opportunity for numerous three-pointers and mid-range shots. Their turnovers and fast-breaks continued to extend the lead, and the Spurs were unable to fight back. Ultimately, they did not stand a chance, and walked away from the game with a 90-120 loss. In the other locker room, the Warriors celebrated their crushing victory and their fans cheered for their dominance in the NBA.
In the 2014-15 season, the Golden State Warriors looked unstoppable, eventually cementing their superiority with a championship title. In this season, the Warriors accomplished their best franchise record since 1976, with a remarkable 67-15 season and broke many individual and team records along the way. Few would have anticipated this year’s to compare with the last, but the Warriors have performed beyond expectations. To begin the 2015-16 season, the Warriors won 24 consecutive games, not only breaking a league record, but also claiming the best start to a season in the history of all major professional sports in America. After a 113-95 loss against the Detroit Pistons, the Warriors passed the season’s halfway mark with a 37-4 record in their 82-game season. With their extraordinary performance, many spectators have begun to compare the team with the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls, the widely-accepted best team in National Basketball League (NBA) history. The Bulls currently hold the best NBA season record of all time, finishing their season at 72-10. However, the Warriors are quickly approaching many of the Bull’s records and may soon become the most decorated team in the NBA’s history.
Being the two greatest teams in NBA history, many expected the two teams’ play styles to be similar. However, the dominant offensive dynamic has changed drastically between the two decades that the teams have played in. The Warriors have introduced an innovative attack strategy that has begun to change the league as a whole. Analysts speculated the Warriors’ smaller roster would have been detrimental to the team’s success, but the opposite has been proved. Boosted by a top-tier defense, the Warriors favor an outside game, taking most of their shots from mid-range or behind the 3-point line.
Arguably the most critical aspect of their offensive success has been their selflessness. The Warriors’ roster has done an outstanding job distributing the ball and leads the NBA in assists. Their high-tempo and high-energy on the court have created countless scoring opportunities — especially off of fast-breaks — which they also lead the league in. Additionally, the Warriors have been extremely efficient, leading with an efficiency rating of 112.5 points for every 100 possessions. Head coach Steve Kerr has received extensive credit for assembling the squad. On top of their appreciable skill, the team seems to get along with each other very well and displays great mentality during games.
On the other hand, the Bulls played an inside game with a few key core players. Their offensive strategy is what is known as the triangle offense, established by Hall of Fame coach Sam Barry of the University of Southern California. The system created a sideline triangle with the Center standing in the post, the Forward at the wing, and the Guard in the corner. The other Guards stand on the top of the key and the weak-side forward on the weak-side post. The system was designed to create a pass to place the ball inside the post, but also created isolation between the attacking players. The Bulls’ team fit this strategy perfectly, with big players who could challenge opponents inside the key, and also grab offensive rebounds.
The team also had numerous outside-shooting threats, who driving players could dish the ball to when defenders moved towards the basket in anticipation of an inside shot. Additionally, the team carried talented players who could effectively pass defenders and maneuver to the basket. With these factors, as well as their unmatchable energy and tenacity, their offense was unstoppable.
Both the Warriors and the 1995-96 Bulls clearly had amazing seasons. However, another example of their success is also evident in the teams’ statistics. Through 50 games, the Warriors boast many outstanding team averages. They are currently making 49.1 percent of their shots, including 42.7 percent from the 3-point line. On top of that, they average 115.4 points per game (PPG), as well as 46.8 rebounds per game (RPG) and 29.3 assists per game (APG). Additionally, the unit produces over eight steals per game, 6.26 blocks and hits 75 percent of their free throws. On the other hand, the 95-96 Bulls shot 47.8 percent from around the court, with 40.3 percent of three-pointers falling through the net. They averaged 44.6 RPG and 24.8 APG, while making 74.6 percent of their free throws. Also, they offer about nine steals per game and 4.2 blocks. Through 82 games, the team’s mean was 105.1 PPG. Analyzing both teams impressive statistics, the Warriors appear to have an advantage in the majority of the data, mostly dominating three-point shooting, PPG, and APG. Meanwhile the Bulls outperformed the Warriors solely in steals. Both team’s numbers are very impressive and, for the Warriors, there are many more games to be played this year.
Although Curry’s and Michael Jordan’s forces were monumental in the success of their teams, their overall successes were and are largely dependent on some of their secondary forces. On the court with Curry are players such as Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. Shooting guard Thompson has been an extremely active player, serving as Curry’s counterpart. Their dual forces have labeled them as the “Splash Brothers.” Thompson is averaging 21.5 PPG while completing 47.5 percent of his shots including 43.4 percent from the arc.
Thompson has stepped up as a leader when Curry has struggled, including scoring 45 points against the Dallas Mavericks at the end of January this year. However, no player on the Warrior’s roster is more productive than power forward Green. Not only does Green average 14.5 PPG, but he also averages 9.5 rebounds and 7.5 assists. Green has 19 double doubles, and leads the league in triple triples with 10. Green’s balanced gameplay makes him difficult to defend and an important part of the team. In this year’s All-Star game, both Thompson and Green were selected to play on the reserves list.
As with the Warriors, Jordan was not the Bulls’ only dominant force. Serving as the team’s starting power forward, Scottie Pippen was unquestionably a star player and a force to be reckoned with. Analysts have labeled Pippen as “the perfect wingman” for Michael Jordan. Pippen averaged over 18 points each game, while shooting 46.3 percent around the court and 37.4 percent from three-point range. Additionally, Pippen averaged six rebounds and 5.5 assists each game, although he only managed to make 67.9 percent of his free throw attempts. Pippen may not have been automatic from distance, but he was an extremely reliable and productive player, usually shooting mid-range of low-range shots with accuracy. Another notable teammate was point guard Steve Kerr. While he may not have made a major impact during his year with the bulls, Kerr it is important to note that he currently serves as the head coach as the Warriors this season.
Behind every team’s groundbreaking success is always a roster that has been equipped with one leading force. As the face of the Warriors, point guard Stephen Curry has dominated in just about every one of his appearances, despite sometimes only playing three quarters. Curry currently leads the league in points per game (PPG) with just under 30. After breaking the single season record for three-pointers made and winning the NBA’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) award last year, Curry has only improved. He is making 51.8 percent of his shots, and also shooting an exceptional 45.8 percent from behind the three-point line. On top of that, Curry has made 91.8 percent of his free throws, and has averaged 5.3 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game. Curry’s ball-handling, incomparable accuracy from distance and ability to maneuver to the basket have made him nearly impossible to cover.
Similarly, the 1995-96 Bulls squad was led by Michael Jordan, who is largely considered to be the best player in NBA history. That year, Jordan made 49.5 percent of his shots, while also averaging 42.7 percent of his three-point shots. Jordan averaged 6.6 rebounds as well as 4.29 assists each game, however, he only made 83.4 percent of his free throws. Jordan’s pristine accuracy, resilience and ability to perform have distinguished him from any other player to play in the league. He is one of four players to win six championship trophies in his career, and is also a 5-time NBA MVP. Clearly, Curry has big shoes to fill in comparison to Jordan, but last year gained him one championship and NBA MVP, and he has a long career ahead of him.