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In their return to Cleveland, Warriors find their third quarter magic

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A key part of Golden State’s identity is back.

Golden State Warriors v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

If there’s been a defining characteristic of the dynastic era of Golden State Warriors basketball, it’s been Steph Curry’s theatrics. But if there’s been a second defining characteristic, it very well may have been their third quarters.

It’s been the third frame where Golden State has fully unleashed the “Warriors” moniker.

Consider last year. In both the first and the fourth quarters of their 82 regular season games, the Warriors were actually outscored by four points. In the second quarter, they outscored their opponents by 121 points.

In the third? They outscored their adversaries by 371 points.

A point differential of 371, in the third quarter alone, against a differential of just 113 in the other 36 minutes of every game. It’s where the games were won, night in and night out.

For much of this season, the Warriors couldn’t find their third quarter selves. But they’ve been quietly righting that ship, outscoring their opponents in the penultimate frame in eight straight contests.

And in Cleveland - a place the Warriors know better than anywhere other than home - they truly found themselves.

Golden State entered halftime surprisingly losing to five-win Cavaliers. A residing 37-22 frame later, and the game was all but over.

How? Aggression, primarily. Just as in year’s past. An understanding that playing into Cleveland’s plan with a series of mid-range jumpers may lead to variance backfiring.

Instead, they left passivity in the doorway, and attacked relentlessly.

Sure, it would be nice if the team could come out of the gates firing like this. But as long as they’re capable of flipping that switch, they’ll remain nearly unbeatable.

Against a Cavs team the Warriors have played 30 times over the last four years - a Cavs team that has been a vital part of Golden State shaping their identity - the third quarter Warriors returned, with a vengeance.

Just as they were meant to be.