Programming note: Coverage of Wizards-Warriors begins Tuesday night at 7:00 with Warriors Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.
OAKLAND – Next time the Warriors lose a game after going off script and falling in love with the beauty of offense, Mark Jackson won't have to sermonize about the significance of defense and ball safety.
All the coach needs to do is gather the Warriors around the big screen TV and click on the video of their 103-88 dismantling of the Trail Blazers on Sunday night.
The Warriors (27-18) shot only 41.8 percent from the field, won anyway. They shot fewer free throws, won anyway. They were outrebounded, won anyway.
That's what can happen when you play terrific defensive and commit only nine turnovers.
"We held an elite team to 33 percent (shooting) and their lowest scoring output of the year, (which) says a lot about our defense," Jackson said.
"If you look at their field-goal percentage and 88 points, we did what we needed to do,'' Stephen Curry said, making no mention of his game-high 38 points. "To not make them feel comfortable early and make them take tough jump shots contested jump shots, and just be more physical than we have been in the past. It worked out for us early and we set the tone."
The Blazers came in as an offensive powerhouse and probably left town wondering what happened to the Warriors they had seen on tape – the team that had lost four of its last five games, allowing an average of 118.3 points in defeat.
"We haven't been playing well defensively," Jackson said. "We've been scoring the basketball. We have no problem with that. We've been out of rhythm and out of sync on the defensive end."
The Warriors on Sunday were defensively sound at the start, slipped a bit in the second quarter and cranked it up to a whole new level in the third quarter, holding Portland to 12 points, on 3-of-19 shooting, while forcing seven turnovers.
That's how the Warriors went from being down one (55-54) at the half to taking a nine-point lead (76-67) at the end of three.
It is no coincidence that Andre Iguodala was the only Warrior to play every minute of that quarter, or that the intensity was raised even higher when Draymond Green entered midway through the quarter. There are very few easy looks when those two are on the floor together.
Here is where we note that during that defining quarter, the Warriors shot only 29.2 percent.
"Our defense," Curry said, "was able answer the call and allow us to close out the game."
Said Jackson: "Now we have to build on it."
THE GOOD: Given the opposition, this conceivably was the soundest and strongest defensive effort of the season. Curry was outstanding on offense, and David Lee routed LaMarcus Aldridge in their individual battle. But defense, with Iguodala and Green shining, was the star. Iguodala, in his spare time, found 12 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.
THE BAD: Though Klay Thompson scored 17 points, he missed 15 of the 21 shots he took from the field.
THE TAKE: When the Warriors defend as if they mean it, they look like a 55-win win team. When they don't, they look like a 40-win team. There will be nights when good defense is beaten by better offense, but games like this one ought to remind the Warriors that their ticket to a meaningful postseason is not on the end of the floor where they can launch 3-point shots.