The Golden State Warriors won their seventh straight game on Thursday with a 123-114 road victory against the two-time defending champion Miami Heat. In the process, the Dubs continued to prove themselves as one of the NBA’s elite teams when at full strength.
Head coach Mark Jackson explained Iguodala's importance to Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle:
Mark Jackson on Andre Iguodala's return: “He’s a guy who makes life so much easier for everybody on the floor."— Rusty Simmons (@Rusty_SFChron) December 18, 2013
During the winning streak, the Warriors have won four road games and beaten three teams in the playoff picture: the Los Angeles Clippers, Phoenix Suns and Miami Heat. With their opening-night starting lineup intact, they’ve been downright scary.
And not only have the #Warriors won 7 straight, they're now 16-3 w/ Opening Night starting lineup of Curry, Thompson, Iguodala, Lee & Bogut— Golden St. Warriors (@warriors) January 3, 2014
Lee dominated the Heat’s undersized frontcourt en route to 32 points (13-of-17 shooting) and 14 rebounds.
Curry—as he’s done so often this year—shot the lights out from beyond the arc. He finished 8-of-15 from three-point range (13-of-22 overall) for 36 points while adding 12 assists and four steals.
Nice double double-double for Steph Curry and David Lee in Warriors' win at Miami pic.twitter.com/WlGRybDg67— J.A. Adande (@jadande) January 3, 2014
The Warriors poured in 38 first-quarter points and shot 63.2 percent overall in the first half.
With Curry, Lee and Klay Thompson leading the way offensively, as well as Iguodala and Andrew Bogut making a concerted effort defensively, the Warriors have enough fervor on both ends to compete with any team in the league.
But while Golden State's starting five has been tremendous at full strength this season, the second unit is still an area of concern.
According to HoopsStats.com, the Warriors’ bench is tied with Washington's for last in the NBA with just 22.7 points scored per game. Losing Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry—two veteran staples on the second unit last season—has really hurt this team’s bench production.
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Having Iguodala back in the starting lineup, which pushes Harrison Barnes into the role of sixth man, will help in the long run. However, Barnes scored 15 points off the bench against Miami and the Dubs could still only muster 25 bench points overall.
Huge performances from Curry and Lee rendered that somewhat irrelevant, but the Warriors may need to shore up their bench via trade to become legitimate title contenders by year’s end.
With seven straight wins in the rear-view mirror, Golden State is the hottest team in the league. After their win over Miami, however, the Dubs are only the No. 6 seed in a loaded Western Conference.
The Warriors fell out of the playoff picture with Iguodala sidelined, but as long as they stay in contention prior to postseason play, they’ll be a nightmare first-round matchup for any team.