LOS ANGELES -- After spending the better part of the season's first two weeks in an extended slumber, the Golden State Warriors woke with a vengeance on Monday night with a 141-113 blowout of the Clippers at Staples Center. The win was the Warriors' 11th consecutive over the Clippers.
Diagnosing the Warriors' early-season ills hasn't been difficult. Their top-ranked offense is more statistically efficient than last year's title squad, but their defense -- 26th in the league -- has been a dispassionate slow dance. On Monday, the defensive work was prompt and, most important, fully engaged.
The performance wasn't the sort of masterpiece that last year's second-ranked defense turned in consistently, but the Warriors' clean, crisp switch-a-thon returned to the perimeter. When the Clippers moved into dribble handoffs, they found a defender meeting them on the other side of the action. When Austin Rivers beat his man off the bounce, a Warriors' weakside helper moved baseline to snuff out the drive. When Stephen Curry found himself on Blake Griffin, a second defender zipped over. The transition D -- save the occasional lapse losing a shooter in the corner -- was responsive to the Clippers' early pushes.
The pyrotechnics on the other end were as familiar as they were prolific. The Warriors came into the game leading the league in minutes with a lead of six points or greater, yet had compiled a record of only 4-3.
On Monday, the Warriors' true shooting percentage topped 70 in the first half, when they seized control of the game, despite draining only 5 of 13 attempts from beyond the arc. They led 74-57 at intermission, an advantage that was cut to nine points briefly in the third quarter, but then stretched out to 21 with a closing flourish in the third quarter. Among the multiple exploits: a tic-tac-toe play with a brilliant lob from Draymond Green, punctuated by JaVale McGee scraping the Staples Center roof for the throwdown; and a buzzer-beating 3 from Curry.
Curry's long-standing mastery of the Clippers continued, displayed most brutally in the third quarter, when he unloaded for 15 points, including a quartet of bombs from beyond the arc. Kevin Durant and Green assembled efficient evenings, with 19 and 16 points respectively, as well as a bundle of rebounds and assists.
Los Angeles native and second-rounder-made-good Jordan Bell put together a fun 5-minute stretch of individual exploits just before halftime (a nifty interior dish to Draymond dish for a dunk, a silky jumper from the left side and steal leading to a fast break), then another stint late when he thrilled onlookers with a putback jam.
Prior to the game, Warriors coach Steve Kerr was both salty and contemplative over the Warriors' slow start to the season. He groused that he would be very pleased if the Dubs could improve upon 26 turnovers. (The Warriors entered play on Monday as the league's second-most careless team with the ball.) The Warriors obliged, coughing up the ball only 12 times.
Once he worked through the sarcasm, Kerr reflected on the almost natural inclination of repeat NBA champions to find themselves sleepwalking through the early season. He relayed Warriors assistant Ron Adams' recently citing an aphorism from the late Chuck Daly, coach of the Detroit Pistons' Bad Boys: "Sometimes you have to wait on a championship team."
A single win over a team Golden State has dominated in recent years doesn't necessarily mean the wait is over. But if Monday night was a pulse check for the Warriors, there were strong signs of consciousness.