Updated: December 13, 2012, 2:36 PM ET

1. For Surging Warriors, A Time To Dance

By Michael Wallace
ESPN.com

MIAMI -- Golden State Warriors rookie forward Draymond Green stood in the corner of a festive visitors locker room Wednesday trying to explain what was said during his heated exchange with LeBron James in the fourth quarter.

At the time, James had risen in the lane to score despite strong defense and plenty of contact from Green with nine minutes left and the Miami Heat trying to put away the Warriors.

Green committed the foul, and James scored anyway. But before he went to the free throw line to complete the 3-point play, the three-time MVP stood face-to-face with Green and delivered the youngster a strong message.

Golden State Warriors celebration
Issac Baldizon/Getty ImagesThe Warriors began their party with a clutch shot.

"He said, '[Dude], you're not strong enough to stop me -- you need some help,'" Green recalled after the game as he laughed with a teammate. "And I said, 'Yeah, whatever man. But I bet you won't score again.' He scored again, though. … But still. You know what I'm saying?"

Green didn't back down from James, and the Warriors certainly didn't shrink in a big moment against the Heat. James scored many of his game-high 31 points on Green. But none were bigger than the game-winning basket Green scored on a layup with nine-tenths of a second left to deliver the upstart Warriors their signature victory of the season in a 97-95 stunner against the defending champions.

Now might be as good a time as ever to get to know these streaking Warriors, whose win over Miami moved them to 5-0 to start a road trip for the first time since the 1978-79 season. Of course, with a playing rotation that includes three rookies, none of the Warriors were born the last time the team had a stretch this successful outside the Bay Area.

Perhaps this was the type of victory that will make the mainstream take notice. Despite getting off to their best start since the 1991-92 season, the Warriors (15-7) are still overshadowed on the West coast -- and in their own state -- by the turmoil that has engulfed the Los Angeles Lakers.

They lack the San Antonio Spurs' experience and credibility, are considered far less relevant than the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Los Angeles Clippers, and weren't even involved in the sort of major offseason trade that garnered the headlines and interest that teams such as the Denver Nuggets and Houston Rockets received.

Instead, second-year coach Mark Jackson, forgotten man David Lee and a finally healthy Stephen Curry have gone about their business quickly and productively. After taking down James and handing the Heat only their second home loss of the season, the Warriors now have the kind of statement victory on their young résumé that just might get the league talking about them for a change.

"It's definitely surprising the league," Lee said. "I think when we came into the season, they said we had a zero percent chance of making the playoffs, we were going to finish 13th in the West. There were a lot of attacks on our players personally, then negative things going into the season. But all we're trying to do is just win as a team."

When asked for the source of their improved play so far this season, the Warriors point to two areas: defense and rebounding. Golden State jumped from 26th last season to 12th this season in overall defensive efficiency, and ranked ninth in total rebounds entering Wednesday's game.

They've managed to get stingier on one end of the court while remaining explosive on offense with streaky shooting from Curry, Klay Thompson and rookie Harrison Barnes. And the Warriors have made these early strides while two key veterans -- Richard Jefferson and Andrew Bogut -- have missed either all or much of the season with injuries.

But there's been no shortage of fight and resolve. Green showed that much in his moment with James, who after the game congratulated him on the victory.

"It was great," Green said of his follow-up conversation with James. "I'm not going to back down from anyone, though. Yes, he is one of the greatest players in the world, but that's not a license for me to back down. I'm trying to make a name for myself in this league like he did one day, way, way, way back in the day, once upon a time."

Several players seemed offended after beating the Heat that the Warriors haven't been a bigger story, that it shouldn't take Wednesday's win for them to be taken more seriously.

Veteran point guard Jarrett Jack, who had the assist on Green's game-winning basket, said the next step is for the Warriors to believe they belong among the top teams.

"Don't get me wrong; we know the Heat is a high-power caliber team," said Jack, who had the assist on Green's game-winning basket. "But we're another ballclub than people are used to seeing. I told my guys, because we kind of celebrated after that basket went in, I was like, 'We didn't do much. It's just one game.' Don't be surprised with some things we do on this nice journey."

Jack's attempt to temper the celebration the Warriors had on the court and in the locker room after the win proved to be one of the few times he wasn't on the same page with his coach. Jackson had no problem with his team taking a few moments to enjoy the biggest win of their season so far.

It wasn't a sign of disrespect against the Heat. In fact, it was exactly the opposite. Winning on the road against the defending champions, who have two of the best players of all time at their positions in James and Dwyane Wade, is proof of just how much potential these Warriors possess.

When you're a veteran team, there's no such thing as statement wins in December. When you're a young team with five rotation players born since 1988, a victory the magnitude of Wednesday's is the biggest thing to happen since many of them played in the NCAA tournament.

With the Warriors staying overnight in Miami before moving on to play Orlando on Friday, Jackson's only concern after the game was that his players avoid the potential trappings of a late night out on South Beach.

"Extremely, extremely big win for us," Jackson said of his message to the team. "I apologize for not being a normal coach. But we are 15-7. Enjoy it. And I put a warning out there. I know that Miami is undefeated, as far as this place goes, so I told the guys to be awfully careful. Enjoy themselves and let's get back to business tomorrow."

The Warriors left the arena knowing they had the talent it took to conquer the high-powered team they faced Wednesday. They also had the confidence they needed to take on the glitzy and glamorous town that awaited them.

Dimes past: Nov. 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30-Dec. 1 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7-8 | 9 | 10 | 11

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