Consider Monday’s 110-93 victory by the Golden States over the Memphii as a triumph of the relentlessly uneventful. Exactly the kind of game every good team needs as often as possible.
There were no stresses or strains, no Memphis Grizzlies rushes to fight off, no needless possessions to waste. If there was something to fret about for you nervous types, it’s that they couldn’t hold their lead well enough to get the Core Four the fourth quarter off.
It was essentially the kind of win so routine and matter of fact that one of the prime topics of postgame conversation was Stephen Curry being contacted by astronaut Scott Kelly about ... yeah, you guessed it the first time.
And truth be told, the Warriors needed this game to be just that routine. Memphis, which was without point guard Mike Conley, led for only 1:01 of the entire game. The Grizzlies could never dictate either pace or grind rate, and looked like what they usually do when Conley is out – a sub-ordinary team in a very nasty conference.
And Golden State? At the Utah Jazz for a game Wednesday against one of the two Western Conference trams with a losing record on its own floor, then home for the Dallas Mavericks, the Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles LeBrons. Four games in six days against three tough outs and a weird Jazz team that can’t get enough shots off to keep up in the new, pacier game.
In other words, the Warriors, who have not always been opportunistic in choosing when to get an early knockout, did that very thing Monday night. Not because their reputations required it, but because their devotion to efficiency demanded it.
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Golden State at its best has always been a quick knockout team, though that hasn’t been quite so true in the last year or so. The Warriors would take quick leads, widen them improbably through the second and sometimes early third quarter (both have been memes for Warrior domination at different stretches in this run) and then cruise, resting their best players for the next game because they could, and should.
More recently – the last year and change, to be honest – their bench has been a bit too thin to hold those leads, or the starters don’t carry the same urgency into the beginnings of games, or other teams are better at dealing with them than when the Warriors first started laying waste to the field. So games aren’t quite so easy, and victory margins have shrunk from double digits to barely five points per game.
Which is why their control of the Grizz was so refreshingly clinical – refreshing for them, anyway. They defended well against an undermanned offensive team, and the bench contributions of Andre Iguodala and Jonas Jerebko stood out on a night when most of the attention was paid to the milestones of Curry (15,000 career points), Kevin Durant (passing Larry Bird on the all-time scoring list) and Klay Thompson (11,000).
But nobody had a jaw-dropping night; they merely squeezed the game like an anaconda, which is the way it should have been approached. They looked like the arch-professionals they are often credited with being -- even on nights when they’re not. They held Memphis to 93 points, a season-low defensively.
Even without the effervescence that made them globally famous, the Warriors were genuinely dominant.
It is ultimately the least noticeable but best feature they have ever displayed, because more good things come from them establishing early control than frantically rallying or needlessly scaring Sideline Joe Lacob, the team’s owner and mood ring.
In short, this was the correct approach for them to take on a night against a clear underling, a 17-point game that looked that way the entire night. No big deal, in truth, but a standard they could stand to attain more often.