DALLAS -- The Golden State Warriors blew out the Dallas Mavericks 112-87 in another dominant defensive performance. Despite coming off a back-to-back and resting Andre Iguodala with the ever unusual "hip tightness," the Warriors were in full form, ending the game quickly and brutally.
Like so many Golden State wins, the opponent started with a spark, only to slowly sputter and fade from the action. A cohesive defense will do that. It has perhaps been the most underrated aspect of the Warriors' season, a buoy taken for granted after so many questioned what would happen after they jettisoned rim-protectors in the offseason. Even without Kevin Durant they've been stout, which is a credit to leading Defensive Player of the Year candidate Draymond Green but also to a roster mostly composed of plus defenders. The Warriors are long, smart and, now, a bit rested coming off a recent awful stretch in their schedule.
The Warriors ramped up their defense after the first quarter. The Mavs attempted 10 open shots in the first quarter, but only 12 such shots in the second and third quarters combined. They scored eight points in transition in the first but only nine for the rest of the game. The Mavericks felt the defense's wrath to the tune of 28.1 percent shooting from outside the restricted area, according to ESPN Stats and Info.
On Golden State's defense of late, Green said, "Guys really just started flying around more. Everybody's taking the challenge of guarding their guys one on one. Once you take that challenge of guarding your guy one-on-one, you make a guy take one extra turn, all of a sudden help is able to get there. I think everybody's really stepped up to the challenge, and we're all connected, five guys moving at a time."
When the Warriors merge that defense with their famed shooting prowess, the fourth quarter becomes the "rest" that the league and its TV partners are so relentlessly obsessing over. After his shooting matched the frigid weather of the aforementioned East Coast road swing, Klay Thompson (23 points) has heated to a point past scalding. He opened 5-of-5 from deep, and a few of the 3s seemingly were key to knocking the Mavs off any path forward.
"Klay shoots the best when he just lets the game come to him and he's moving the ball instead of forcing anything," Kerr said after the game of Thompson's recent run. "He's been very patient and unselfish."
The Mavericks started out looking like a reasonable facsimile of Warriors basketball. "Push! Push it!" coach Rick Carlisle exhorted of his team as it flew down the floor, putting up shots from long range. By the end of the first, the Mavs had knocked down six 3-pointers and claimed a two-point lead.
Then, the squeeze started, and the Mavs went cold. Dallas lost ground to the Dubs' second-quarter reserves, which is usually a harbinger of certain doom; Ian Clark scored 10 of his 18 points in the second quarter. Once all the Warriors' starters got in on the action, there was no amount of pushing that could enable Dallas to pull close. Patrick McCaw also played well, scoring 10 points that included the first lob dunk of his career, converted at a tricky angle.
People were primed for a Steph vs. Seth Curry duel, but that action was largely muted. Seth did not play well (10 points, 4-of-12 from the field), and Steph moved the ball nicely but didn't take over.
Steph did, however, have a nice third-quarter stretch that effectively ended the game. He recovered a bounce pass in traffic around the baseline, went toward the free throw line, reversed course and swished in an impressive feat of dexterity. Then he launched a long shot over Dirk Nowitzki that eventually bounced in, blessed by a wacky dance from Curry in front of delighted courtside spectators. On the next play, he recovered a loose ball to nudge in a layup in transition. And with that, the Mavs had gone from wobbling to fallen.
There's another component to this overwhelming Warriors effort. Steve Kerr, who before the game even proposed cutting some salary for a shortened season, noted a reason the Warriors look fresher than the foe. When discussing the rash of "DNP-Rest," Kerr said, "I do feel bad for the fans. I also know resting those guys last week was something that was beneficial, and I think it's shown to be so this past week. You can see our guys are fresher, their legs."
That might be so. Perhaps whatever was recently wrong with the Warriors has been rectified by some timely rest. Whatever the reason, if Golden State keeps playing defense like this, it'll get plenty of additional relaxation, in games, during the fourth quarter. Or, as Kerr put it, "Down the stretch, coming off that tough trip a couple weeks ago back East, it's a good time for us to extend wins and get [Curry] on the bench."
It's unusual to relish the benching of Curry, but the Warriors and their locked-in defense are making such a scenario increasingly common.