OAKLAND – In a game with a vibe that fell slightly short of playoff intensity, yet clearly mattered more than most in the regular season, the Warriors proved they have an advantage no other team can claim.

They know how to navigate games of significance. That’s the benefit making deep postseason runs four consecutive seasons, with three ending with championships.

Their 116-102 win over upstart contender Denver on Tuesday was a study in an expert taking apart the work of a relative novice. The Warriors were brilliant at times, indifferent at others and never sensed a need for full alert.

Here are some of the positives and negatives from a victory that gives the Warriors are two-game lead over the Nuggets in the Western Conference standings.



KD’s timely savagery

The Warriors were going about their business, wiping out an early deficit and building a lead, but there was little electricity in the air until Kevin Durant went full superhero. Durant early rim protection was good, but his three dunks over the final two minutes of the first half sent the team’s bench into a spontaneous frenzy and raised pulse rates throughout Oracle Arena.

It was as if he’d found a gear that only he has and used to show Denver it had no chance.

That Durant lately had been playing low-key but still effective hoops, this display of passion, power, and production was a welcome sight for the Warriors and their fans.




The Boogie edge

Though the Warriors have no idea if they’ll face the Nuggets in the postseason, there is no question DeMarcus Cousins would welcome that battle. In two games against Denver and the terrific Nikola Jokic, Cousins has used physicality, activity, and psychology to own the Denver center. Jokic was stifled early and turned downright timid as the game went on.

Cousins outscored Jokic 28-10 and outrebounded him 13-6. All indications are that Cousins is “in the head” of Jokic, which would give the Warriors a huge mental edge against a team whose greatest weakness is its lack of playoff experience.



Spasms of horrible hoops

Steve Kerr entered the interview room with a look of utter ambivalence, satisfied by victory but mystified by his team’s insistence on providing moments that exhibit the worst of themselves.

The Warriors committed a season-high 24 turnovers, gifting the Nuggets 28 points, 15 in the second quarter, allowing Denver to slice 16 points off a deficit of 30. There were sloppy passes, aimless ball-handling, and general carelessness. Cousins had five turnovers, with Stephen Curry and Draymond Green each contributing four. Given the magnitude of the game, the negligence of details was discomforting.

The Warriors managed to build the house, but they broke a lot of bricks and windows while leaving a hole in the floor big enough to invite rats.



The Chef keeps cooking

Curry took only 11 shots in his 30 minutes of action. He scored 17 points, fewer than either Cousins or Durant (21). Curry highlights were in accomplishing two feats of note.

One, he made five 3-pointers (in 10 attempts) to extend to nine his streak of consecutive games with at least five. The NBA record is 12, by Rockets star James Harden.

And, two, Curry surpassed Chris Mullin and moved into fourth place on the franchise all-time scoring list. With 16,236 career points, Curry needs 31 to move past Paul Arizin (16,266) and into third place.



Tech trouble

After the vociferous protest of a non-call in the third quarter, Durant was assessed a technical foul by Zach Zarba, the chief of the officiating crew. When Durant continued his protest for another five or six seconds, Zarba responded with a second technical, resulting in automatic ejection. KD paid dearly for apparently using “magic” words in the book of Zarba.

Durant now has 15 technical fouls this season, the same number as Green. The next technical for either will result in a one-game suspension.

With five games remaining, fingers will be crossed. The slate is wiped clean for the playoffs, so if they avoid No. 16, they get a new start.