OAKLAND – The first goal of the Warriors this season was achieved Sunday, when the ensured that any attempt to prevent them from reaching a fifth consecutive NBA Finals must go through Oracle Arena.
Their 131-104 rout of the Los Angeles Clippers gave the best record in the Western Conference for the fourth time in five seasons, making them the No. 1 seed in the west.
The sellout crowd (19,596) was in fine form for the last regular-season game the Warriors will play at Oracle, loud throughout and with no fewer than five standing ovations during the game.
Here are three takeaways from a game in which the Warriors at times flashed playoff form:
Picking up the D
The Warriors clearly were unhappy with taking a mere seven-point lead (62-55) into the locker room at halftime. Perhaps the allowance of 55 points was the source of irritation.
They came out for the second half looking greedy and angry. With Draymond Green leading the way with three steals, the defense forced six turnovers while putting the Clippers in a vise.
The Warriors totaled five steals and two blocks in the quarter, limiting LA to 18 points on 7-of-19 shooting, while also outrebounding the Clippers 15-8.
We’ve seen some brilliant third quarters from the Warriors in recent seasons, and this may have been as good as any. If they bring this level of intensity execution – at both ends – to the postseason, there will be another parade rolling through Oakland in June.
The yin and yang big men
DeMarcus Cousins got off to a tough start, going 0-of-8 from the field and picking three fouls in 13 first-half minutes. He forced a few shots and his third foul was a questionable call, sending him to the bench with 6:49 remaining in the half and the Warriors trailing 42-41.
This was not necessarily a bad thing, as replacing Cousins at center was Andrew Bogut, who played six impactful minutes during which the Warriors outscored LA 21-13.
Bogut’s numbers during that stretch were overwhelming, but his defense was highly effective. He grabbed three rebounds, got a steal and rejected a Montrezl Harrell shot in the paint. Bogut also picked up three fouls.
The Cousins-Bogut tag-team duo is looking more and more imposing, giving coach Steve Kerr a nice option against legitimate centers: Cousins to provide offense, Bogut to bolster the defense.
Nothing easy, Clippers
When the Warriors committed three turnovers inside the first four minutes, giving LA five points, it appeared this might be one of those nights when they were destined to be charitable and keep the opponent in the game.
The Warriors committed only four turnovers over the next 32 minutes – and none in the practically perfect third quarter – when they cranked up the defense to scorching-hot levels – and outscored the Clippers 42-18 to lock away the game.
Turnovers have been an ongoing issue, with the coaching staff more concerned than the players, who concede they take more chances when facing inferior opponents. After a sloppy start, they refocused, simplified and thrived.