ORACLE ARENA — As far as flimsy opponents go, there’s not one in the NBA that poses less of a threat than the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Warriors have had their share of issues in the past, including playing down to the competition and not getting up for the lesser opponents in the league. But they made sure to pounce early against the league’s worst team.
After giving the Sixers a sliver of opportunity in the first quarter — a 6-0 run to open the game — Golden State ran away, opening up a 15-point lead in the first quarter and cruising to a 126-86 win.
Even if the Warriors played down, sloppy, or slow, they would have beat Philly who couldn’t seem to keep hold of the ball.
Sixers head coach Brett Brown stressed that his team shouldn’t be embarrassed, and that they should walk away from the game looking at the positive things despite the margin of the loss:
“I don’t want them feeling ashamed. I want them finding a ways to take a deep breath and understand this is where the 76ers program is at the moment and at times it is painful. But we move on and they have to continue to dow what they have been doing.”
After the 76ers’ initial outburst, Golden State quickly answered the run, opening up a 15-point lead of their own at the end of the first quarter and stretching that lead to 27 by halftime.
The victory allowed the deep reserves to take the floor again and get in valuable minutes. Another game for the starters to get rest, and another game for unlikely stars to make a splash.
Steve Kerr praised his team for getting out early in the game but was most impressed with the way his bench finished out the night:
“What made me the most happy was the way our reserves closed the game. We’ve had some blowout wins this year where we didn’t close it right, we turned it over, we got lethargic. But our guys really played hard through the final twelve minutes.”
Marreese Speights finished with a game-high 23 points and made it clear there was no love lost between him and his coach when he was in Philadelphia. Speights said he is always motivated in playing against his former team in most part because of the way he was treated in his final year with Philly under coach Doug Collins in 2010-11:
“Its nothing against them. Its more for Doug Collins … When I was over there he said I was crazy and that I had to talk to a psychologist, so yeah.”
Speights’ crazy-good performance was followed by Leandro Barbosa with 17 points while Klay Thompson, Stephen Curry, David Lee, Justin Holiday and Draymond Green chipped in double-digit performances in the 40-point blowout.
But scores can be deceiving.
The 76ers committed 28 turnovers (18 in the first half) that the Warriors turned into 43 points on the other end which made things look easy for Golden State. But the other stat lines should garner big concerns for the league-leading Warriors.
Philadelphia out-rebounded the Warriors (49-42), had more points in the paint (48-44), and led the way in second-chance points (23-4).
Surely these numbers are skewed by the inactive Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli, but injuries are a part of the NBA and there are better teams, teams in the Western Conference, that will not let Golden State get away with faltering in any stat column.
The Warriors will need to address the big man dilemma as the season wears on, but for now, they stand atop the league with a 25-5 record.
Kerr told SFBay he isn’t going to worry about the numbers that are changed because of the lack of a true center, and that he thinks things will work out just fine:
“We’ve been holding our own without Andrew and we want him back and want Festus back, but you don’t spend any time worrying about it you just gotta go play with whoever you have. And our guys have done a really good job.”
From the worst to the best, the Warriors will play their first game of 2015 against the Eastern Conference best 24-8 Toronto Raptors Friday, in the the third game of the Warriors six-game home stand.
The Warriors improved to 12-1 at home this season, tying the team’s best home start in franchise history (last accomplished in 1975-76). … Golden State led by as many as 47 points in the 40-point win, its league-leading 17th double-digit victory this season. … The Warriors improved to 9-0 against the Eastern Conference this season (4-0 at home). … Three Warriors recorded season highs in scoring tonight: Leandro barbosa (17), David Lee (13) and Ognjen Kuzmic (career-high-tying six points). … Marreese Speights tallied a game-high 23 points on 9-of-13 from the field. Speights set a career-high with 32 points in his last meeting against Philadelphia on Feb. 10, 2014 and is averaging 27.5 points on 75 percent in his last two games versus the 76ers.