Lukewarm Warriors just hot enough to singe Heat

There hasn’t been such a poor showing of distance shooting at Oracle Arena in a very long time.

The Warriors (36-2) weren’t great in their 111-103 win over the Miami Heat (22-17), but did enough to win, specifically not turning the ball over and playing their signature tight defense that is so often overlooked nationally.

This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the Warriors locker room at Oracle Arena.

The first half was particularly bad. Golden State couldn’t find a way to get the ball to drop, and both teams finished the first 24 minutes with a 22.2 three point percentage, ending the night just a few points higher.

Interim head coach Luke Walton considered it the ultimate team win, noting the entire bench stayed on the proper side of the plus-minus, even if the starters didn’t:

“They took away our three point shot as well as anybody has all season. Give our guys credit, we still found a way to score 111 points even without making a lot of threes.”

Golden State’s three-point efficiency close to half of their 43 percent season average, and it never seemed Miami was doing anything special to stop the rain. But the Warriors were as dry as California over the last two summers.

Stephen Curry was 4-for-11 on the night from long range, while Klay Thompson was 2-for-4.

The win came due to limiting turnovers to just two-thirds of Golden State’s season clip of nearly 16 per game, and losing possession just nine times. The 55 boards didn’t hurt either.

The biggest factor, paramount to any element for the Dubs, was the bench, which has been off and on for the better part of the season.

Especially Marreese Speights, who scored six points in just under six minutes, along with Shawn Livingston’s six assists and four rebounds.

There’s no questioning that with a crunch in cap room, and difficulty finding talent while staying frugal. Guys like Ian Clark are holding the bench above water, but it hasn’t been smooth.

Monday night was different. Said Speights:

“I’m always ready. Everytime my name is called, I’m out there. Tonight my shot was falling, it felt good to be out there. … I’ve been in this role since I got here, I’m used to it. Whenever my name is called I’m going to go out there and play.”

Instant offense, with tough moments, Speights has been a crucial part of the Warriors success. His role it to step in and create a spark when the team needs it most.

Walton said:

“That’s always Mo’s role, that’s the role he likes. And that’s a tough role, it really is. For Mo, he’s such a good shooter and scorer that we kind of encourage him to let it come. And sometimes he does that, and sometimes like tonight, he feels hot right away. Normally if he hits his first shot he’s going to take a couple more.”

Walton continued, praising the defensive element that is generally overlooked for Speights probably more than anyone on the squad.

Without contributions from the bench, Golden State could have lost, even been blown out.

The Heat aren’t the same team that won back-to-back NBA titles, but they are still one of the better teams in a much-improved Eastern Conference.

With the loss, Miami drops to 10th in league standings, and remain at the No. 5 spot on the right coast. For comparisons sake, Miami would be 5th in the West too, though nowhere near the caliber of Golden State or the San Antonio Spurs.

The Warriors simply had an off night against an above-average team, though there have been clear signs of fatigue. After a torrid start to the year, the Warriors have recently been blown out by Dallas, kept honest by Cleveland, nearly lost to the losing Houston Rockets, and taken to overtime at home facing a rebuilding Nuggets squad.

And with Curry, Thompson and Draymond Green playing around 35 minutes for another night, the Warriors could be facing a larger battle than statistics can readily measure.

Golden State has a streak of very tough games towards the end of the month, at Cleveland, at Chicago, versus Indiana, versus San Antonio versus Dallas and to finish the month, at New York.

The showing against Miami, and sustained display of fatigue, is beginning to signal that losses might begin to mount, and that another untimely injury could complicate a season that was looking like the best of all time for the first three months.


Jason Leskiw is SFBay’s Golden State Warriors beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @LeskiwSFBay on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of the Warriors.