SACRAMENTO -- Eighteen seconds into the game, before the Warriors had attempted a shot, or even taken possession of the ball, coach Steve Kerr called timeout and immediately summoned his players to the bench.
Kerr wanted to discuss defense and focus, neither of which was present when Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins spun around Zaza Pachulia and pranced toward an unguarded rim for the kind of dunk usually seen in a layup line.
Though the Warriors acknowledged their negligence -- it was mentioned right before tipoff that if Cousins got the ball on the block, there should be help -- but it wasn’t until late in the second quarter that they unleashed a fully focused defense.
And once they did, it took all hope out of the Kings, who were emboldened by building a 16-point lead midway through the second quarter, only to have the Warriors trim it to seven at by halftime and completely take over with a 22-3 run in the third quarter.
“We knew they couldn’t sustain that throughout the game,” Kevin Durant said Sunday night, after scoring 28 points as the Warriors completed a 117-106 win at Golden 1 Center. “You saw the third quarter. Their legs got a little tired, we were more physical and we got out and ran.
“That’s the formula for us.”
When the Warriors (32-6) use stingy defense to trigger transition offense, they’re nearly impossible to beat. They shots come more easily, and they go in more often. They are 19-0 this season when they shoot 50 percent, and chances of doing that rise dramatically when they’re forcing turnovers and getting into the wind.
“I’m not saying we’re invincible at all; we’ve proven that (we’re not),” said Stephen Curry, who scored a game-high 30 points, his third consecutive game with at least 30. “But it gives us our best shot to allow our talent on the other end to shine.
“A lot’s been said about our fourth quarter offense and execution and lineups and whatever, but if we can work through that while getting stops on the defensive end and using the length and activity that we usually have on that end, we’ll be alright regardless.”
The Kings (15-22) shot 52.3 percent in the first half, and were close to 60 percent before the Warriors held them to 1-of-6 from the 4:14 mark until halftime.
The Warriors took command after intermission, outscoring the Kings 39-22 in the third quarter, forcing five turnovers (leading to six points) while holding them to 31.3-percent shooting.
The offense simply held up its end of the deal. The Warriors shot 54.3 percent in the second half, with balanced scoring. In addition to Curry and Durant leading the charge, Klay Thompson put in 18 points, Zaza Pachulia tossed in 10 and Draymond Green added 9, while also contributing his usual combo line of statistics, including 10 assists and seven rebounds.
It was enough that the Warriors were able to continue their NBA-record streak of games without back-to-back losses, now at 124.
Yet it goes back to Kerr, calling the quick timeout and demanding the team to do as it had been coached.
“I knew exactly why, when he called it,” Green said. “Zaza did his job and nobody was there to help. It definitely made a statement.”
Said Kerr: “We gave up a back-door lay-up on a play that we had just talked about and there was a scheme that we blew,” he said. “So, we just had to talk about it.”
Asked if he’d ever seen a coach call a time 18 seconds into a game, surely the fastest Kerr ever has, Durant considered his nine-year career before responding.
“No – no, but that was a great timeout,” he said. “We said we were going to double from the baseline on Cousins and we didn’t do it. And it was unacceptable to Steve. Great timeout. Got us going.”