Photo: Steph Curry's special edition shoes, which he wore to honor President Obama at the end of his term in office.
With the NBA season nearly half over, the new Golden State Warriors are playing the best they have so far. Their convincing three in a row victories over Cleveland, Oklahoma City and at Houston featured fearsome defense and fewer turnovers to go with smart and efficient shooting.
But their challenge for the championship may still be waiting out there. They played the San Antonio Spurs the first game of the season and got blown out. They haven't seen them since, as both the Dubs and the Spurs have improved. They play them twice at San Antonio in March. That will be there final meaningful pre-playoffs test.
The likely if not near certain East winner, Cleveland, remains a challenge. In their two games, the visitor was deep into a road trip and on a back to back. Both home teams won, though Golden State was the more convincing win. Meanwhile, the Spurs just beat the Cavs in overtime, in Cleveland, even short-handed.
So the Dubs can't underestimate the Spurs. They didn't have to meet them in the playoffs last year but are much more likely to this season. The Dubs are not the automatic West team to face Cleveland.
Update: Even with a road loss to Miami, Golden State has the best record in the West, which this year means the best in basketball. The East has one team with 30 wins (Cleveland.) The West has 4 teams with 30 or more wins (and one more with 29.) Thirty wins leads the East, but it gets you fourth in the West (LA Clippers.)
And let me repeat: like last year, the Dubs are getting the publicity but the Spurs are winning, too--just 2 back in the lost column now. The first seven teams in the West are above .500 and all are capable of beating anybody. So to win the West regular season is an accomplishment with playoff payoff. But the Western Conference playoffs will be very competitive. The second half may hold some surprises--injuries can change things quick--but the Spurs look to be the chief challenger to the Dubs, and neither team can look past any other opponent in the playoffs.