Warriors unsurprisingly send yet another message to Nuggets, rest of NBA as they focus on No. 1 seed out West
The Warriors responded as expected from the worst home loss in the Steve Kerr era
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Steve Kerr saw it coming. Mike Malone saw it coming. Heck, even the Celtics saw it coming.
Coming off a 33-point loss to Boston on Tuesday -- the worst home defeat in the Kerr era, after which several Celtics said they wouldn't want to be the next team on Golden State's schedule -- the Warriors were out for blood. The Nuggets were wading in the water like helpless swimmers in leaky inner tubes as the sharks circled, fully aware of their fate yet incapable of changing it.
"They're coming off the worst loss in Steve Kerr's tenure here, healthy," Malone said before the game. "So we expect a very aggressive, confident group."
Indeed, that's what the Nuggets got, as they watched the Warriors zoom out to a 22-6 start en route to a 122-105 win. Klay Thompson, who said his two-game absence felt like "an eternity," put on a shooting clinic, scoring 39 points on 9-of-11 3-point shooting. After the game, Malone's sentiment was the same as everyone who watched the carnage: "They are a better team than us."
You know that scene in Forrest Gump, when he's invited to the White House yet again, this time for his table tennis accomplishments. It's something most would dream of, but something that's become commonplace for Greenbow, Alabama's native son.
"So I went ... again. And I met the president ... again," an irritated Gump says.
That was the Warriors on Friday night. It was time for them to send a message, so they did. Just like they did last time they played their so-called competition for the No. 1 seed out West, a 142-111 national TV throttling in Denver in January.
"So we sent a message against the Nuggets ... again. And we proved we're by far the best team in the league ... again."
Not only did the Warriors start hot, but they also responded to a furious Nuggets comeback with a barrage of scoring that proved this effort was going to last the whole night. There would be no more comebacks.
Critics continually decry the idea that teams can simply "flip the switch," but we've seen these Warriors do it time and time again. Whether it was the first round of last year's playoffs against the San Antonio Spurs, the second half of Games 6 and 7 facing elimination in last year's Western Conference finals against the Rockets or Friday's game against Denver, Golden State has proven that when they need to turn up their energy and focus, they know exactly how to do it.
"It would have shocked me if we hadn't played well tonight," Kerr said after the game. "Our guys have responded for the last five years to bad losses, to lulls. So it didn't surprise me at all that we came out with energy and passion and got off to that great start."
It's a dangerous line to tiptoe, but Kerr and the players have reiterated all season how difficult it is to focus for an 82-game regular season. There was certainly extra focus coming into Friday's win, marked by two good practices and a meeting in which the team reflected on its goals this season. One goal is to savor their last season in Oracle Arena and put on one last show for the Oakland fans, but another, more tangible goal, is to grab control of the No. 1 seed.
"I think, in life, and obviously basketball, it's always good to kind of sit down and go over your goals -- to kind of see those goals, you know, where you write those goals down and you get a chance to see them every day," Warriors forward Draymond Green said after the game. "We hadn't done that in a while. So from that standpoint, I think it was very important, because if you don't write those goals down, if you don't revisit them, then all of a sudden, you forget about them. ... We want to get home-court. The playoffs are never easy, but having home-court makes it a little bit easier on ourselves."
Kerr said before the game that now is the time for his team to get some momentum for the postseason. He didn't like the way they entered the playoffs last year, and hopes to avoid similar backsliding this time around. Stephen Curry reiterated the team's focus on the No. 1 seed, and said beyond the obvious advantage of home-court, the chase will give them something to focus on for the rest of the season.
"It gives us something to really shoot for in these last 17 games, to take care of our business," Curry said. "And it's not just about winning games, but how we're playing. We say that all the time, and at this point it really needs to resonate -- walking off the floor every night and feeling like we did get better, and not taking any steps back at this point in the season."
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