The Warriors were having their way with their newest nemesis, taking meals off their plates and then grabbing their wallets. They were bullying the mighty Spurs, stripping them of authority and mystique.
And, still, Warriors coach Steve Kerr responding to a sequence he hated, demanded a timeout and threw himself into a fit of apoplexy on the sideline.
Face contorted in anger, Kerr broke his clipboard and slammed his marker on the court so hard it bounced up somersaulting over his ear.
The Warriors were up 12 late in the first half and had not trailed since the first five minutes. Their lead was five at the end of the first quarter and grew to 15 in the second. They were winning, yes, but Kerr sought something beyond victory.
He wanted excellence, and a few moments without it led to a tantrum in public.
“I was just upset because we lost our heads,” Kerr explained. “I told our guys that the one thing San Antonio does is they execute with poise, and they’ve been doing it for 20 years. And if you don’t show that same poise, then they’re going to beat you.
“For the most part, we had good poise, good execution, but we just completely fell asleep on back-to-back plays. And that’s why I broke the clipboard.”
That moment is pure Kerr. Yet it could have just as easily been forward Draymond Green, who picked up a technical foul earlier for vociferously arguing a personal foul call. And just because others rarely exhibit their fury, that doesn’t mean it’s not real or that it’s not driving them.
The Warriors didn’t get to 70 wins without talent and focus and a seething rage to win. And they absolutely wouldn’t get there without an insane level of preparation and attention to even the most mundane details.
“Our coaching staff is incredible,” Green said. “There was a tough decision made with coaching changes (the firing of Mark Jackson in 2014) and a lot of people were mad. There were a lot of mixed emotions. But they went out and got a great coaching staff. When you talk about the coaching staff and the mixture with the players, all of that stuff, it makes this organization what it is.”
Which is an organization on top, reigning champions and favorites to repeat. The Warriors are pushed not only by outside competition and dismissive slights but also from within. All these influences create the seeds of rage.
They have nine losses, and Harrison Barnes insists that those losses are replayed more than the 70 wins.
“We kind of push those to the side,” he said, “and be like, ‘Man, that one time in Milwaukee, or “That one time in Dallas.’ “
So why did Kerr flip out on the bench, generating video that will live forever on social media. Sloppy offense in the form of Curry turnover was followed 13 seconds later by lazy defense that allowed Spurs guard Danny Green to drain an open trey.
Kerr couldn’t hide his disdain, even if he later joked that the destroyed clipboard is easily replaced.
“We had the 3 right in front of our bench,” assistant coach Ron Adams explains, referring to the shot by Green. “We’d had a transition on which two guys who didn’t run back and fill in and take the 3-point shooters.”
Green’s shot trimmed the Warriors’ lead to eight with 1:31 left in the half. They pushed it to 12 by halftime and blew it out to 23 (71-48) with 6:23 left in the third quarter, completing a 25-10 post-tantrum run.
Winning 70 games requires many attributes, but it doesn’t happen without a sick determination to win and, on occasion, a bolt of thunderclap indignation.