Top Moments from Golden State Warriors' 3-Year Run of Dominance

Zach BuckleyNational NBA Featured ColumnistAugust 25, 2017

Top Moments from Golden State Warriors' 3-Year Run of Dominance

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    You may not remember this, but there was a time when the Golden State Warriors weren't synonymous with NBA dominance.

    Wild, right?

    Granted, in the social media age, three years feels like forever. Especially when it entails unprecedented regular-season success, three trips to the Finals and a pair of world titles.

    That's why even though this dynasty may still be in its adolescent stage, it's an appropriate time to get retrospective. And since the past three seasons have provided mostly peaks and higher peaks, there are a multitude of moments that rank among the best.

    To give you a peak behind the curtains, moments can be anything from a single shot to an entire season. We've compiled the top 10 ones here, subjectively ranked based on their impact, impressiveness and overall significance.

10. Draymond Being Draymond

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    Memphis-based fans were treated to the perfect Draymond Green performance Feb. 10.

    All four points and 2-of-6 shooting of it.

    But really, this was the small-ball savant at his Swiss army knife best. He plucked a franchise-record 10 steals, missing matching the league's all-time mark by a single theft. He swatted five shots, because that's what elite, 6'7" rim protectors should do. He also dished out a game-high 10 assists and grabbed a team-high 11 rebounds.

    That's a triple-double, folks, and the Association's first of its kind. If you've ever wondered how a streaky-at-best shooter and sporadic scorer has garnered consecutive All-Star nods, this contest answered the question over 38 magical, distinctly Draymond minutes.

    "Draymond dominated the game," Warriors head coach Steve Kerr told reporters. "That's as dominant of a performance as I've ever seen from somebody who scored four points."

9. Klay's Inferno

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    Golden State has a pair of cheat-code scorers on the rosterStephen Curry, who's in shooting range as soon as he's off the bus; and Kevin Durant, who has a center's height and a guard's game.

    But the Warriors' wackiest offensive displays come courtesy of someone else. Klay Thompson's torrid streaks are the NBA equivalent of Mario's Super Star power-up. Just this past season, he blowtorched his way to 60 points in 29 minutes while using just 11 dribbles.

    That's absurd. And still, it's not the hottest he's burned in the last three seasons.

    On Jan. 23, 2015, he exploded for an NBA-record 37 points in a single quarter against the Sacramento Kings. His first bucket came at the 9:44 mark, and he "only" had 10 points through the quarter's first six minutes before going full-on supernova. He buried all 13 of his shots in the frame—nine from long range—and a pair of free throws to boot.

    "You don't get that hot in [NBA] 2K," Green told reporters. "Them video games are real now. And that wasn't real. You can't do that in a video game."

8. Strength in Numbers: Finals MVP Edition

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    Joe Murphy/Getty Images

    "Strength in Numbers" sounds like the perfect slogan for a team sport—succinct, catchy and as selfless as it gets. But the rally cry, coined by Kerr when he took over, is much more than that to this group.

    "Nothing is more consistent with the Warriors since Steve has gotten here than 'Strength in Numbers,'" team president Rick Welts said in April 2016, per Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle. "He lives it. He preaches it. I think, in the locker room and beyond, it's what we do."

    Strength in Numbers is what made the far-fetched possibility of Andre Iguodala's becoming a Finals MVP a reality.

    Only a team that shares everything could see a player who didn't start and averaged a mere 7.8 points in the regular season rise to claim the highest individual honor awarded on the game's biggest stage. And only a culture that promotes collective over self could witness a former All-Star move to the bench for the first time in his career for the betterment of the team.

    Defense drove the decision—as did the Dubs' series win—but giving him a larger slice of the offensive pie may have sealed the win. Including the first three rounds, Iguodala scored 20-plus points and/or took 12 or more shots just five times in 92 games. During Games 3 through 6 of the Finals, he averaged 14.5 shots and topped 20 points twice.

7. Mr. 400

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    Hoops historians will eventually refer to the NBA's three-point records as simply "The Curry Files," assuming they haven't already. All due respect to the snipers who preceded him, but the game has never seen another one like him.

    That was already established before the 2015-16 campaign. By then, he had twice set a new standard for perimeter proficiency with 272 makes in 2012-13, then 286 in 2014-15. (The previous record-holder, Ray Allen, topped out at 269.) Oh, Curry also sported a stellar 44.0 career three-point percentage thenthird-highest in history—so he was simultaneously raising the bar on volume and efficiency.

    2015-16 was a different beast. It was like the basketball gods had turned his shooting sliders all the way up. He not only delivered the league's first 300-triple season, he leapfrogged to 400—402 to be exact. For the first time in his career, more than half his shots were threes. And he still converted a ridiculous 45.4 percent.

    No one really knew how to process the feat. ABC analyst Mark Jackson, Golden State's former coach, said Curry's shooting was "hurting the game." Allen told Slam's Abe Schwadron Curry "is in a category of his own." Even Curry admitted the gargantuan total "doesn't make sense."

    Curry finished 38 makes shy of the entire Milwaukee Bucks that season. Only JJ Redick, who landed 202 triples back of Curry, hit a higher percentage.

    The 300-triple club remains a one-player party, although Curry has now joined it twice (324 last season).

6. The Magic Number

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    Before raising the 2015 championship banner, the Warriors had gone 40 years without a title. So, if they entered 2015-16 feeling a little full of themselves and slipped up due to complacency, it would have been hard to blame them.

    But the Dubs had different ideas. Like, opening the year on a record-setting 24-0 sprint. Or steamrolling to a ridiculous 39-2 standing inside Oracle Arena. And ultimately, finding a way past Michael Jordan's best Windy City crew and back into the record books with a 73-9 mark that still seems surreal.

    Only five teams have come within five victories of that record. Jordan played on two of them (Chicago Bulls, 1995-96 and 1996-97). Wilt Chamberlain suited up for two others (1966-67 Philadelphia 76ers and 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers). The fifth featured Hall of Famers Dave Cowens, John Havlicek and Jo Jo White (1972-73 Boston Celtics).

    So, 73 wins is a huge deal. Yes, even after Golden State's crushing collapse in the 2016 Finals stripped away some of its luster.

    "To win 73 regular-season games—and, more strikingly, to lose just nine—is an incredible achievement that no team in the history of the sport had managed previously," Sports Illustrated's Rob Mahoney wrote. "That's worth celebrating independent of the title in the same way that any record-setting season of its magnitude would be."

5. Dream Hamptons Vacation

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    Beck Diefenbach/Associated Press

    It's not just a clever saying: What happens in the Hamptons really does change the course of NBA history.

    Golden State went all-hands-on-deck last summer for Durant's free agency. The mansion meeting featured the core four members of the Death Lineup: Curry, Thompson, Green and Iguodala. Kerr was present, too, along with general manager Bob Myers, owner Joe Lacob and assistant general manager Kirk Lacob.

    "We asked him how many championships do you think we can win with the way the team is now? How many championships can you win without us? How many do you think we can win together?" Green told The Undefeated's Marc J. Spears.

    Durant heard what he needed to hear and publicly penned his way to the Bay on July 4, 2016. No sooner had the digital ink dried on Durant's letter than USA Today's Jeff Zillgitt was calling the Warriors "a dynasty in the making." By May, ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy was penciling in Golden State for "eight to 10 straight Finals."

    It was that big of a deal, and we're still only seeing snippets of the impact. Last season's Durant was perhaps the most complete version of the former MVP to date. And that was while he integrated himself to a new franchise and missed more than a month with a knee injury.

    The more comfortable he gets, the more he'll resemble the wrecking ball he became as a Finals MVP: 35.2 points on 55.6 percent shooting (47.4 from three), 8.2 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.6 blocks and 1.0 steals per game.

4. By Unanimous Decision

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    Virtual hoopers can only dream of having the year real-life Curry orchestrated in 2015-16.

    Fresh off his first MVP win, the Chef cooked up his first scoring title with ruthless efficiency. He not only had the highest points-per-game average of any 50-40-90 shooter (30.1 per game), he did so while joining the uber-exclusive 50-45-90 club. His 66.9 true shooting percentage was the best ever by a 30-point scorer. And his 31.5 player efficiency rating was topped only by Chamberlain, Jordan and LeBron James.

    That's also the same year he dropped 402 long-distance bombs. And the one in which he piloted the Warriors to 73 triumphs. For good measure, he also led the league in steals (2.1) and set a personal best in rebounds (5.4). The Warriors were 18.3 points better than opponents per 100 possessions when he played and 3.7 points worse when he didn't.

    The most impressive stat on his resume was 131-0—as in, 131 first-place MVP votes for him and zero for everyone else. His unanimous win is the NBA's first and only of its kind.

    "I looked at the list of everybody who's won an MVP award...legends," Curry said, per Michael Singer of USA Today. "To be the first unanimous MVP award winner is something I don't even know how to put into words."

    Incredible, remarkable, unbelievable—any of those would suffice.

3. The Dagger

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    It makes sense that a slithery near-7-footer with impossibly long limbs would make for an expert escape artist. Even still, it was astounding to watch Durant and the Dubs wiggle out of a six-point hole while holding Cleveland scoreless over the final three minutes of Game 3.

    And nothing was more wondrous than the ultra-confident, stone-cold dagger Durant delivered with less than a minute remaining.

    In less than seven seconds, he rebounded a Cavs miss at one end and sucked the life out of Northeast Ohio at the other. The stones needed to even attempt the shot are boulder-sized. Add in the skill required to bury it—right in LeBron's airspace, no less—and it's a bucket that demanded all-time talent.

    That's what Durant possesses, and it's why the Warriors—along with 29 other teams—wanted him on the roster.

    "He is simply too tall, long and talented," CBS Sports' James Herbert wrote. "On a different team, the Cavaliers might have trapped Durant in order to get the ball out of his hands. On this superteam, that is no longer an appealing option."

    With the Warriors, Durant can benefit from a movement-based system (he shot a career-high 53.7 percent), but he also has the freedom to ad lib. When he's punctuating a fourth quarter with that kind of shot, it isn't hard to see why.

2. Revenge

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Greatness has a way of breeding jealousy, but the vitriol spewed at last season's Warriors was particularly venomous. Blowing a 3-1 lead in the previous Finals made them the butt of all basketball jokes. Adding Durant to a 73-win team wasn't a popular pickup outside of Oakland.

    The Dubs had officially transformed from darlings to villains. When they again grabbed a 3-1 advantage in the championship round, haters hoped to see another historic stumble.

    Didn't happen.

    Behind 73 combined points—on, get this, 60 percent shooting—from Durant and Curry, the Warriors rolled to a series-clinching 129-120 victory. They outscored the Cavs by 34 points in the series and outscored all playoff opponents by 230 points on their way to a 16-1 postseason record.

    This was Golden State at its shimmy-shaking, chest-thumping best. One could argue whether the Warriors ever lost their swaggera lot had to happen for that 3-1 lead to fall apart—but the best way to prove they had it was a dominant showing like that. An offseason spent largely on retaining their own players shows they (rightfully) feel they're again the team to beat.

    "The Warriors aren't scared in the slightest by what the rest of the league has done this summer," Sports Illustrated's Rohan Nadkarni wrote. "The Warriors have their feet up on the table and cigars in their mouths while the rest of the NBA tries to figure out how to slow them down."

1. First Taste

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    It don't mean a thing if you ain't got that ring, right?

    Golden State's 67-win showing in 2014-15 put the NBA on notice. A mostly smooth 12-3 ride through the Western Conference playoff bracket proved this jump-shooting squad wasn't a regular-season wonder.

    But it wasn't until the final buzzer sounded on the Warriors' 105-97 championship-clinching victory that this franchise officially completed its leap from laughingstock to legitimate power. Curry, Thompson and Green were cemented as stars. Kerr's small-ball style became a championship blueprint.

    "We found a recipe for success, and that's the most important thing for us," Curry told reporters. "I think we definitely are a great team, and a team that should go down in history as one of the best teams from top to bottom."

    History might view Golden State's other two iterations in this run as being more powerful, but the first champion is an easy No. 1 when it comes to the feelz.

    The entire roster became first-time champions, from the high-profile youngsters to high-mileage veterans like Iguodala, Shaun Livingston and David Lee. Kerr, perhaps as likable a skipper as there is, grabbed a ring in his first season at the helm. Decades of futility and frustration faded away as the Warriors made their long-awaited return to the mountaintop.

    Greatness had arrived in Golden State.

               

    Unless otherwise indicated, all stats from Basketball Reference or NBA.com.

    Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @ZachBuckleyNBA.