Warriors whoop another Western Conference contender

All it takes for the Warriors to break out of their early season malaise is a visit from any and all Western Conferences contenders — but we already knew that.

Over the last week and a half, the Warriors have blown out the Clippers, Spurs and Nuggets all by 19 or more points, and the trend continued Wednesday with their 125-103 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

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

Golden State did it without Kevin Durant, who sat out with a sore left thigh, though it shouldn’t be a problem going forward as Steve Kerr said Durant definitely would have played if it was a playoff game.

In his absence, Andre Iguodala drew the rare start and looked like the spry Iguodala of old, and even scored in double figures for the first time all season, finishing with 11 points.

It all starts with that “strength in numbers” team philosophy, Stephen Curry said:

“When you have an expectation that everybody that steps foot on the floor is a threat and capable of changing the game for us, that just gives everybody confidence.”

Curry finished the game with 22 points, eight rebounds and eight assists and committed just one turnover after the first quarter.

Klay Thompson continued his torrid stretch to open the season, scoring 28 points on 20 shots and paced the Warriors in scoring.

With one less wing player there were enough minutes for both Nick Young and Patrick McCaw. Both saw extended run.

This season has been a real struggle for Young so far, as Swaggy has seen erratic minutes in Steve Kerr’s early season rotations, playing double-digit minutes in just five of his first 11 games. And when he has gotten on the court, the results have been nasty, as he was shooting a wintery 3-of-17 from 3-point land over his last seven games.

Young didn’t shoot the lights out Wednesday — 4-of-11 from the field, 3-of-9 from deep — but he made the most of his time on the court, showing off his passing and defense.

Young set up Curry and Thompson for wide open 3’s and celebrated harder than if he had nailed the open jumpers. He finished with five assists, his highest assist total since January 15, 2014.

Draymond Green said that while Young making shots was good, everything else he did was great:

“Obviously it is good to see the ball go through the rim, but the defense was incredible. He brought some energy to the game… And the four assists has got to be a career high for Nick [laughs]. It was good to see him have a good game especially with KD out, we needed someone to step up. And he did that, and it wasn’t scoring.”

He also tallied four steals, exerting the most effort on that end of the court since he’s been in a Warriors jersey.

Kerr heaped praise on Young’s all-around floor game:

“I liked Nick’s effort tonight on the defensive end. He’s pretty good on the ball, I think his defense on-ball is his strength. I loved his energy, I loved his intent. He gets a little shy sometimes, I want to encourage him to shoot, so we’ll talk more about that.”

That’s something Young is going to have to do with this team, find other ways to get involved and pump himself up. Because when he transforms into full Swaggy, it’s about to be a wrap for any opposing bench unit. The trick is getting to that point without shooting the Warriors out of the game.

Their offensive explosion of 44 third quarter points will get the recognition, but the Warriors have broken out the clamps the last few games allowing just 93.3 points over their previous three games, lowest in the NBA during that span.

It’s been a long time coming, at least that must be how it felt for Kerr, who had to see his team start the year as a bottom-nine defense:

“It’s all about taking care of the ball and defending. The defense part I’m really pleased with. I think this is about the fifth straight really good defensive effort we’ve had, so that’s a great sign.”

But that’s started to regress back to the mean, and with it Golden State should start ascending those rankings shortly—especially if there are more contenders on the horizon.

Up Next

The four-game homestand continues for the Warriors when they take on Ben Simmons and the Philadelphia 76ers Saturday. The Sixers are on a five-game win streak and Simmons looks like a matchup nightmare and probable Rookie of the Year, averaging 18 points, 10 boards and eight assists to date.

Notes

After spending time in the hospital last week, Warriors’ legend Al Attles returned to his customary seat in Oracle, above section 102. Attles was serenaded by the crowd, who sang happy birthday to him after he celebrated his 81st birthday Tuesday. … The Warriors blocked nine shots Wednesday night, they have now blocked at least seven shots in 11 of their first 12 games. They currently lead the NBA in blocks per game, averaging just under nine a game.


Curtis Uemura is SFBay’s Golden State Warriors beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @CUemura on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Warriors basketball.