Rewind: Warriors save best basketball for elite opponents

Rewind: Warriors save best basketball for elite opponents
January 31, 2014, 7:15 am
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Marreese Speights was one of six Warriors to score in double figures against the Clippers. (USATSI)

The challenge now is let's go to Utah, and that's not an easy one because they are playing a lot better.
Mark Jackson

Programming note: Warriors-Jazz coverage tips off today at 7 p.m. with Warriors Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area (territorial restrictions apply)

OAKLAND -- On Thursday night, for the third or eighth or 22nd time this season, the Warriors displayed the aggression of a piranha and the relentless heart of a champion fighter.

Their 111-92 vanquishing of the Clippers at Oracle Arena was a textbook destruction of a very good team made appreciably more vulnerable by fatigue. The Warriors swarmed on defense, attacked the boards, dominated the paint and shot well enough to maintain a cushion.

This is what, as Warriors coach Mark Jackson said afterward, a good team is supposed to do -- particularly on its home court.

It shouldn't matter that Clippers coach Doc Rivers thought his team "had nothing" after playing in Los Angeles on Wednesday and traveling north afterward.

[RECAP: Warriors 111, Clippers 92]

"This is how you bounce back," Jackson said, referring to the team's disappointing loss to an average Washington team on Tuesday.

Though the Warriors (28-19) can rejoice in showing so well against the Clippers (33-16), who lead them by four games in the Pacific Division, the Dubs also might harbor some anxiety. They realize their performance is typical for their dealings with the Clippers, for whom they can always work their emotions into a good lather.

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"I wasn't going to question our energy or drive coming into this, because it was a very big game," center Andrew Bogut said. "The ones that are a question was Washington (a loss) and at Utah (on Friday)."

Well, yes, this win does nothing to solve the Warriors' biggest problem. If anything, it was an illustration of it. They can be fierce against some very good teams, meek against teams that, quite frankly, are inferior.

The question is whether they can consistently dig up such passion for less imposing opponents.

"We definitely knew we'd be ready to play," forward Draymond Green said. "Now it's a matter of doing that against the Washington Wizards, doing it against the Minnesota Timberwolves, doing it against the Utah Jazz. That's the growth we need.

"We've got to continue to want to be better, not settle or be satisfied with anything because we haven't done anything. Just continue to want more."

The Warriors took a 2-1 lead in their season series with the Clippers. They've shown they can beat Oklahoma City, Portland, Phoenix, and even defending champion Miami -- in Miami.

Yet the Warriors have lost to Washington, Minnesota, Denver, Charlotte and Brooklyn -- all teams either hovering around .500 or somewhere below.

"We've had some special nights, so it's not like we are trying to reach for something we are not capable of doing," Jackson said. "We are well aware of it. What I liked about tonight was that we set the tone early and battled. That's a pretty good basketball team with a lot of weapons. That was a quality win for us.

"The challenge now is let's go to Utah, and that's not an easy one because they are playing a lot better."

THE GOOD: The Warriors got back to ferocious rebounding, winning the battle of the boards 53-34. They held the Clippers to 6.7 percent shooting (1-of-15) in the third quarter to pull away. Bogut was tremendous: 14 points, 17 rebounds, three blocks and constant physical presence. Harrison Barnes finished with 10 points and eight rebounds, his most productive game in many weeks.

THE BAD: Not much, really, other than some sloppy defense and ballhandling in the second quarter, when Los Angeles shot 66.7 percent.

THE TAKE: The Warriors were engaged. But they always are engaged when they play the Clippers. So we still don't know who the Warriors are, only what they can be. They don't know who they are, either. They know what they can be when they are engaged for a full game and they're still figuring out who unlock the mystery of doing it on a nightly basis.