OAKLAND -- The Miami Heat these days aren’t much to look at. The megastars have abandoned South Beach, leaving the franchise to hatch anew. Yet as the brain trust eyes the future, those still in uniform play with an admirable relentlessness.
Which is exactly what the Warriors need to see and feel, as often as possible.
If the Warriors are to reach the NBA summit in June, they’re going to need plenty of experience in rugged, ugly, borderline-brutal games, such as that which the Heat forced them into Tuesday night at Oracle Arena.
Though the Warriors prevailed, 107-95, they took many blows along the way, beating back multiple rallies. Not until the final seconds were they able to exhale.
“They play hard every possession,” coach Steve Kerr said of the Heat.
“They just play hard,” Stephen Curry said. “Every possession, they were coming at you.”
For a team like the Warriors, who can get casual about their abundance of talent, being pushed and shoved and made to perspire is fabulous practice.
As is having an 11-point lead after three quarters shaved to three by the middle of the fourth.
The Warriors were put in a position where they had to execute, or else risk losing to a team that had lost eight of nine and entered the evening with an 11-28 record.
“Yeah, we didn’t turn the ball over, which is helping us at least get shots on the rim,” Curry said. “We definitely had several possessions where we knew exactly what we wanted to get and we executed.
“That’ll continue to show itself as we go through the season with just our focus and just the clarity of what we want to accomplish down the stretch of games. Whether we make or miss shots, you live with that, but not turning the ball over and getting a lot of movement and not settling, that was big for us tonight.”
Kevin Durant, who scored a team-high 28 points, took note of the team’s work in the fourth quarter and came away feeling as if there is progress in an area that had been an issue in close games.
“Coach called some plays and we ran them to perfection and got some layups and got some stops as well,” he said. “It was definitely a different game, not having him out there, but we adjusted as the game went on.”
Though it may have been against Miami without LeBron James or Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh, this was no gimme. This is not a team that will be in the playoffs, but it brought intensity to everything it did Tuesday night.
And that’s enough for the Warriors to derive some healthy benefit.