OAKLAND – The Warriors' ongoing search for their hammer, that elusive instrument that pounds inferior teams into submission, may be getting somewhere.
In their 103-89 crushing of Orlando on Tuesday night, the Warriors indicated they might be ready to take seriously every opponent that enters Oracle Arena, even those that come through the door looking like hapless victims.
They toyed with the Magic early, playing occasional defense, and cranked up the intensity in the third quarter to bury a team ready to fall. It was so, well, businesslike, which is how it should be for a team with one eye on the playoffs.
"You've got to win games at home down the stretch," point guard Stephen Curry said. "This is one of those situations, obviously, so it's a big win for us to regain some momentum after two tough losses and keep it moving."
Those losses – to the Clippers last Wednesday and to the Cavaliers last Friday – preceded a rather impressive win last Sunday in Portland, when the Warriors overcame an 18-point deficit to beat the Blazers at Moda Center.
The Warriors (43-26) typically get fired up for the league's better teams, such as Portland, but they sometimes snooze at the sight of a pushover like Orlando.
It's altogether likely, though, that the Warriors rallied together because they knew two of their starters – center Andrew Bogut (ankle soreness) and forward Andre Igoudala (knee tendinitis) – were out the lineup due to injury.
And that backup center and spiritual touchstone Jermaine O'Neal almost certainly would be a spectator.
Short-handed teams often find a way to develop an instant edge, and the Warriors seemed to have that, particularly in the third quarter.
"Really pleased with the way we got after it," coach Mark Jackson said. "We handled our business and competed. We were very unselfish and did a great job of sharing the basketball."
As usual, defense played a role in turning the game toward the Warriors. While Curry and "Splash Brothers" sidekick Klay Thompson combined for 43 points – 23 in the third quarter – it should be noted that Orlando made only 5 of 20 shots in the third. A 10-point halftime lead had grown to 21 (87-66) and the Magic was dust.
"That's how we've got to play the rest of the year," Curry said. "Just on both ends, trying to get win our matchups and our (personal) battles. If we do that, with how deep the West is, we'll usually be in good shape."
If the Warriors do that, they'll beat every lottery-bound team they see for the remainder of the season, beginning with Milwaukee on Thursday at Oracle.
They have seven games remaining against sub-.500 teams, the kind of teams that too often give them trouble. If they win all seven, the Warriors would get to 50 wins and prove they have found their hammer.
THE WOUNDED: Bogut did not play after tweaking his surgically repaired left ankle on Sunday in Portland. Jackson said the center will be evaluated daily.
Iguodala is being shut down until at least March 28. He tried playing through the tendinitis, and at times played well. But the Warriors are taking the strategic approach in hopes he'll be strong for the final two weeks and into the postseason.
O'Neal is not injured, not technically. He's being shut down simply to allow his battered, 35-year-old body a few days to heal. He likely will return on Saturday, when the Spurs come to Oracle.
THE GOOD: With the Magic posing the rumor of a threat by making their first two ss of the second half, the Warriors dug in and played angry defense to seal the victory.
Thompson and Curry, in particular, put the clamps on Arron Afflalo and Jameer Nelson, holding them to a combined 8 points on 4-of-14 shooting.
THE BAD: Barnes continues to struggle on offense. Starting for the second straight game, he finished with 4 points (on 1-of-6 shooting), five rebounds and three assists. He can do much more damage in 31 minutes.
Green's offense: 2-of-11 shooting and 6 points.
THE TAKE: Without Bogut and Iguodala, the Warriors made pregame defensive adjustments. When the Magic began to stir, they made yet another adjustment in the third quarter that allowed them to take over the game. In beating a team that had no business sniffing the possibility of victory, the Warriors did the routine when nothing more was required. That's what playoff teams do in March and April.