OAKLAND – That the Warriors come at opponents in waves is a testament to the deliberate way the roster was built and, beyond that, the system installed last season by coach Steve Kerr.
There are mainstays, none more main than reigning MVP Steph Curry.
There is Klay Thompson, Curry’s sidekick and fellow starter at guard in the All-Star last February.
There is, of course, forward/center Draymond Green, perhaps the most unique frontcourt player in the NBA.
Stopping this trio is quite the task, but these days rarely enough, as the Sacramento Kings discovered Saturday night at Oracle Arena.
The Warriors pushed their record to 18-0, blasting the Kings off the floor, 120-101, in a game that really was not as close as the score indicates. But, as we said, the Warriors came in waves, pretty much from one end of the bench to the other.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a better shooting team or a better passing team in my whole career I’ve been coaching,” said Kings coach George Karl, whose coaching career began in 1984.
There was Brandon Rush, who was awful last season, nudged into the starting lineup to replace Harrison Barnes (left ankle sprain) and responding with 16 points – 14 in a game-turning third quarter outburst.
There was Marreese Speights, the king of yo-yo playing time, getting 17 minutes and giving his team 13 points and five rebounds.
There was Festus Ezeli, the backup center, posting 11 points and 11 rebounds in 18 minutes.
The production came in waves, sometimes from unexpected sources, which is how the NBA’s leading scorer, Curry, could take only seven shots and yet his team wins by 19 – and leads by as much as 31.
“Honestly, everybody was great tonight,” interim coach Luke Walton said. “It was a really solid team effort. Ian (Clark) in limited minutes did a really good job. It was nice to see, with this (seven-game) road trip coming up, those guys step up.”
Yes, it was Sacramento, a team without a prayer of making the playoffs. And, yes, the Kings were without their best player, center DeMarcus Cousins, who was out with a strained back. But the Warriors were ruthless in their effort, and when they move the ball as designed, it doesn’t much matter who was on the court.
The Warriors once again, for the fourth straight game, hit the 30-assist goal, with 32. Their bench, led by Speights and Ezeli, rang up 53 points; the Kings starters totaled 62, while their reserves added 39.
“They were huge,” Green said of his reserve teammates. “Ian came in and had a good first half, gave us some good minutes. Mo came in and gave us some good minutes. You know, obviously, B-Rush in that third quarter was huge.
“So one guy went down and other guys were ready to step up, which was big.”
Big enough the birthday boys, Andrew Bogut (31) and Leandro Barbosa (33) could get away with making small contributions yet still celebrate both the winning and the first day of their new age.
But that’s how this team is built, this season as well as last. It’s deep and it’s talented. Everyone will get an opportunity to shine. What they do with is up to them.
That’s why the Warriors, rather than sweating the 2015 draft, could take a risk such as Kevon Looney. They knew he likely needed surgery on his hip and that he could miss the entire season.
Didn’t matter. General manager Bob Myers acknowledges that having such a strong roster, with most roles clearly defined and plenty of trust from the coaching staff, allowed him to draft Looney as a “futures” acquisition.
Barnes’ absence snapped a streak of 205 consecutive games, including postseasons. Was he missed? Sure he was. But the Warriors didn’t miss his production because they got it from other sources.
That’s what they do, because that’s the way they’re built.