OAKLAND -- The fuse was lit late on the night of Oct. 29, after the Warriors trudged off the Oracle Arena floor losers for the second time in their first four home games, this one to Detroit.
They’d blown a 14-point third-quarter lead by committing seven turnovers in the quarter -- five in the final 6:40 -- allowing the Pistons to charge back and take the game. The Warriors were outscored 43-26 over the final 14 minutes of the game.
They boarded the late-night flight to Los Angeles, where on the next night they would face the Clippers, a team that races Warriors pulses like no other. The timing was, for the Warriors, nothing less than exquisite. They needed something to help them remember how they created their identity, and there were the Clips.
The Warriors took a 17-point halftime lead, pushed it to 21 by the end of they third and eventually snatched a 141-113 victory.
That touched off a six-game win streak of sheer dominance, with 21.5 points the average margin. The Warriors are the second team in NBA history to win six in a row, all by at least 17, matching the 1989-90 Phoenix Suns.
After beating the Clippers by 28, the Warriors rolled the Spurs by 20 (122-92), the Nuggets by 19 (127-108), the Heat by 17 (97-80), the Timberwolves by 24 (125-101) and, on Saturday, the 76ers by 21 (135-114).
Asked if the turnaround began with losing to the Pistons or with beating the Clippers, Draymond Green opted out.
“I don’t think it necessarily turned with either one,” he says.
Green has another theory, and it’s usually valid with the Warriors. The quality of their play is determined not so much by opponents as it is by their selves.
“We know what we’re capable of,” he says. “We knew we just needed to lock in and focus. Our focus level wasn’t there in the Detroit game; mine in particular was horrible. And we knew, all right, it’s time to turn it on. It’s time to lock in and focus and win some games. We’ve done that.
“And most importantly, it’s been done with the defense. And once we picked that up, we knew we’d win games. It was just a matter of focusing in and doing it.”
To be sure, defense is at the heart of this revival. The bottom-10 defensive rating that embarrassed the Warriors through the first seven games, during which their record was 4-3, has been shed for a top-10 rating. They’ve moved into ninth place, which is a more customary status insofar as they’ve been in the top five for four seasons running.
Teams are shooting 42.5 percent from the field during the streak, while the Warriors are at 52.8 percent. They’re shooting just below 45 percent beyond the arc, while holding opponents to less than 32 percent.
They are basically strangling every offense they’ve seen, but they’re also dancing on the heads of opposing defenses.
“I like how we’re defending,” Kevin Durant says. “I just like how we’re scrambling on the defensive end. We’re moving the basketball. We’re finding the open shot. And when things break down, we don’t panic. We just continue to keep moving and we find a shot late in the shot clock.”
It’s not that everybody is at the top of his game, but everyone is either there are close. The starters have been stellar in most games and the same applies to the bench. Nick Young, who after a sizzling opening night spent the next two weeks looking completely out of place, is finding his way into the fabric of his new team. Omri Casspi is contributing, as is Kevon Looney.
Everybody has caught the fever on defense, which generally starts with Green and becomes contagious.
“He’s been one of the keys,” coach Steve Kerr says. “We were struggling early in the season and it’s no coincidence that when Draymond plays well, we play well and he’s been tremendous during this whole streak.”
If there has been a trend, it is the Third Quarter Takeover. The Warriors still haven’t shaken the habit of sloppy passes and defensive lapses that keep games close through most first halves. They’ve overcome it with terrific third quarters, where they come out snarling on defense, using it to trigger their offense and outscore opponents in that quarter by an average of 12.5 points during the streak.
That may not be enough every game, and it’s not something the Warriors should aspire to rely on. For now, though, it’s more than enough.
“We just turned a corner in our season,” Stephen Curry says.
“We took the challenge of how bad we started in the first (seven) games . . . and focused on them,” he adds. “We obviously know we can still get better. And that’s the goal. We’re just riding that momentum and want to sustain it.”
Veteran forward Andre Iguodala says the Warriors typically respond to defeat with rededication. They seem to have done that, and despite what Green says, the record shows it began the night after they let a home game slip away.