The Golden State Warriors, for the second time this season, played in a nationally telecast "Championship Preview." And like the last time at Atlanta, the Warriors came up short in a humbling loss to the streaking Cavaliers.
Facing a road back-to-back in Toronto the next afternoon, these Warriors bounced back in spectacular fashion, plastering the helpless Raptors 113-89.
Tired legs seemed to be a factor early on, as the Dubs shot under 35% in the first quarter. However, the ball movement was crisp, the shot selection was solid, and the ball control was excellent: the Warriors only turned it over 11 times all game.
But as the great basketball scholars of old are wont to say: "defense travels." And apparently this Dubs defense has an active passport. The Warriors held the Raptors to a franchise low 1-for-19 shooting in the first quarter (5% from the field) with dominant perimeter defense that completely denied the Raptors drive opportunities. Toronto continued to clank contested jump shots off the rim for the remainder of the game.
At the half, Toronto looked to be righting the ship -- they were still shooting poorly, but the Warriors weren't scoring enough to put the game out of reach. Then the third quarter started, and the Dubs jumped all over the Raps, winning the frame 44-26 on an absurd 82% from the field (where was that last night?). Led by Klay Thompson, who hit his first four shots of the half in lightning speed, the lead swelled to 41 at the end of three. The starters did not play the rest of the game, having earned a well-deserved rest.
Observations from the Bench
Tyler Hansbrough lived up to his reputation as an antagonist in the third period. Jawing led to fisticuffs with Festus Ezeli, which resulted in a double ejection. Ezeli shoved Hansbrough first after a remark, after which "Psycho-T" swung at Ezeli. It's tough to tell who said what, but you can rest assured that the Golden State of Mind community is heavily populated with lip readers.
Justin Holiday had a game he would like to forget. He banged knees with a Raptors player almost immediately upon entering the game, and it clearly affected his game. His shot was off badly all night, and he looked awkward on the court. He finished 0-of-7 shooting with an unfathomable -15 plus-minus on the night. Tough break for the kid.
The bench as a whole was nearly as bad. With Andre Iguodala sidelined for scheduled rest, it was a golden opportunity to see the extended bench in action. But we got a quick reminder why some of these guys are on the bench. The fourth quarter started with only two points in the first seven minutes and thirty-three seconds.
It's tough to get upset with a team letting some or most of a 41-point lead slip away, but it is clear that the bench is not playing as well as the sum of its parts. Fortunately, most NBA teams don't get to enjoy hockey-style fourth quarter substitutions. Those only happen when you're doing really, really bad, or really, really well. Despite Thursday night's disappointment, the Warriors have proven to be pretty darn good at the latter...especially on back-to-backs. One more feather in the Warriors' cap: an NBA best 10-2 on the second game of a back-to-back.
The 45-11 Golden State Warriors return to action Sunday, as they face a scrappy Celtics squad in Boston in a 3pm matinee.