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OAKLAND – That Stephen Curry owned the spotlight Wednesday night was appropriate, for he offered up on a spectacular shooting exhibition while pouring in 51 points.
There is your buzz, your Thursday morning talking point.
But another component of the Warriors was just as crucial to their 128-114 destruction of the Dallas Mavericks.
After a first quarter in which the Warriors seemed completely unfamiliar with the concept of defense, they defended like demons to erase a 20-point deficit in the second quarter, and did it again over the final 12 minutes to put away the game.
"If you had told me that after the first quarter that at the end of the game Dallas would shoot 41 percent, I would say you've got to be kidding me," coach Steve Kerr said. "They were destroying us. And it wasn't just long threes. It was dunk after dunk. We were completely discombobulated defensively, and they were fantastic."
Dallas finished at 41.8 percent for the game but shot 65.4 percent in the opening quarter. More to the point, they shot 33.3 only percent over the final three quarters.
When the situation called for it, when it absolutely had to be done to achieve victory, the Warriors (39-8) locked up one of the best offensive teams in the NBA – and did it with limited assistance from 7-foot center Andrew Bogut, whose legs appeared to display the adverse effects of playing back-to-back nights.
This was a case of the Warriors, as a team, using defense and rebounding to ignite their fast-paced offense. Five different players had at least six rebounds.
"We're trying to impose our will upon them, especially defensively, because we know if we get stops and we have that athletic lineup, whoever gets the rebound can push it," said Andre Iguodala. "That's what makes us really dangerous. They've got to cover the three and they've got to cover guys that are attacking the basket."
Iguodala finished with seven points, seven rebounds, five assists, one steal and a blocked shot. He twice made defensive plays that led to offense, both times deflating Dallas.
"Andre made the play of the night -- the steal and dunk when it was a five-point game," Kerr said referring to a sequence that pushed the Warriors' lead to 114-107 with 4:53 left.
That play ignited a 16-7 finishing kick that buried Dallas, which was held to 16 points on 19.2-percent shooting in the fourth quarter.
Curry, obviously, blew up the Dallas defense. He roasted four different defenders and a couple double-teams in scoring 51 points – 26 in the third quarter.
The Warriors in the second and fourth quarters held the Mavs to 36 points on 13-of-47 shooting (27.7 percent). Dallas stars Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis shot a combined 11-of-34.
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Draymond Green had only two points but was so essential he played a game-high 40 minutes and finished with team-highs in rebounds (10), assists (six) and blocks (3).
Marreese Speights and Leandro Barbosa each came off the bench to score 14 points in 14 minutes.
The first quarter may have been the most abysmal the Warriors have played this season. They gave up 11 points off turnovers and Dallas' total 42 points represented the most by any opponent team, in any quarter, this season.
After a horrid first quarter, the Warriors put on a show. There was Curry, with his first game of more than 40 points at home, making a dazzling variety of shots against anybody the Mavs dared to put in front him.
And there was the defense, the aspect that sometimes gets lost in the offensive fireworks supplied by the likes of Klay Thompson and Curry. This was another example of why when the Warriors defend to their potential – even when Bogut is somewhat marginalized – they look like the best team in the league.