After their first few games, the Warriors aren’t blowing teams away, but they’re still blowing teams out.
After beating Sacramento by single digits Saturday, Golden State needed a late surge Monday night to top the Detroit Pistons 109-95 with a spectacular fourth quarter.
Leading by 14 at halftime, the Warriors finished the third quarter with a narrow four-point lead that appeared to be generous. Leandro Barbosa came in and scored seven fourth-quarter points, the bench largely responsible for the Warriors dominance this season, and certainly Monday.
Golden State double-teamed center Andre Drummond for the better part of the evening, and Detroit made some effective halftime adjustments that helped them flip a nine-point deficit at the half into a four-point margin by the end of three.
Drummond, one of the best big men in the league, and the latest elite or near-elite center the Warriors have faced in every game this season, tallied 14 points and 15 rebounds.
That’s close to half of Golden State’s 40 total team rebounds.
To be fair to Golden State, the Pistons only led once: early in the first quarter, by two points. Detroit never led after the Dubs sunk their first bucket.
This Warriors team plays more organized and calmly than in the past, especially when they aren’t ahead by nearly as much as usual later on. On their slim four-point lead entering the fourth quarter, forward Andre Iguodala said:
“We were down two last week in the third or fourth, whatever it was, and we had to bounce back in that game. So, we compete pretty hard in practice, and the score is pretty close with the first unit and second unit.”
Added interim head coach Luke Walton:
“I don’t think we needed it, but it’s one of the great things about our team. Our second unit is, we feel, the best in the NBA. We got great chemistry. We got veterans in the second unit who know how to win. And when they give us that type of performance it just makes us more dangerous. Did we need it? No. Is it nice to have? Absolutely.”
The Warriors are going to roll with their bench in the second quarter no matter what happens. In the fourth quarter, though, there are decisions to be made.
Walton was going to let his starters take a breath with a four point lead and the confidence of champions churning, but it was uncertain that the Warriors could maintain enough momentum to carry the lead.
Golden State is being held to a higher standard these days. Blowout after blowout, and now a 14-point win is considered close at first, until perspective sinks in.
Walton’s Warriors entered the night with a plus-18 point differential, twice that of the next-best San Antonio Spurs at plus-9.
Early in the final quarter, Golden State’s reserve unit went on a 10-point run, beginning with a pull-up three from forward Harrison Barnes.
Then a Barbosa floater helped the Warriors to a nine point lead, only to increase to 12 points when Barbosa sank one from beyond the arc.
Barbosa continued to menace Detroit, stealing the rock and dishing it to guard Shawn Livingston for the easy lay-up.
That sequence solidified the Warriors win, and of course, Barbosa was the star of it.
“We were getting ready to start getting the starters back in the game, and then (the second unit) picked it up on defense, which led to some offense. Got the crowd involved. Got us a nice big lead there. And we were able to give our starters a couple extra minutes on the bench.”
The Warriors fly to Memphis in the morning to open a two-game road trip Wednesday, which ends Thursday in Minnesota.
Center Andrew Bogut returned from a concussion sustained against the New Orleans Pelicans on October 27, nine boards and eight points in just under 19 minutes.
The team was happy to have him back, Walton saying that Bogut is the type of player who instantly makes the guys around him better.
Festus Ezeli started at center, and Bogut came off the bench for only the fourth time since being traded to Golden State. Ezeli has been playing exceptional ball as of late, and the Warriors appear to have another luxury, two very capable seven-footers, a rarity in the NBA.