OAKLAND – The Warriors on Friday, as on Wednesday, renewed their relationship with a very trusted but long-neglected friend.
Good, old-fashioned stingy defense.
At least that's how it appeared for the vast majority of their 104-89 squelching of the Dallas Mavericks before the usual sellout crowd (19,596) at Oracle Arena.
The Warriors held Dirk Nowitzki, the future Hall of Fame forward, to 14 points on 5-of-16 shooting. They limited Dallas' other major scoring threat, Monta Ellis, to 6 points on 2-of-14 shooting. The Mavericks shot 36.8 percent overall, 31.7 percent in the middle two quarters, when the game was decided.
It was splendid display of D, reminiscent of November and December, before the Warriors lost their way a bit last month. And it was especially welcome insofar as it came two days after the Warriors restricted the Bucks to 42.5 percent shooting.
And, yet, this represents a small sample size against a pair of teams fighting through the dark side of a back-to-back set on the road.
Which is not to suggest that the Warriors haven't rediscovered some of the defensive principles that served them so well earlier this season, but to consider that the Mavs and Bucks that showed up in Oakland were diluted versions of their best selves.
"We've been committed, effort-wise and energy-wise," coach Steve Kerr said. "When you play hard and you have the versatility that we do, then good things should happen. We've definitely gotten that edge back at that end."
[INSTANT REPLAY: Curry, Warriors mop of up Mavericks]
The numbers support Kerr, but the eye test is another story. The Warriors were the fresher team and looked the part. The Mavs took a 94-75 loss Thursday night at Portland and arrived at their Bay Area hotel in the wee hours Friday morning. Their legs looked heavy, and so did their arms.
The Bucks weren't much different, having played the previous night in Denver.
The Warriors (48-12) are in no position to care about that. Their job is to feast upon whomever sets foot in their lair, regardless of condition.
There is no question, though, that their defense was vastly superior to their offense. The Warriors missed a dozen open looks, threw countless reckless passes and committed 22 turnovers.
Their defense, on this night, saved their backsides.
"We did a great job on those guys," Draymond Green said. "I don't think we were really flowing well on the offensive end. But the way we defended, we were able to get out and run a little bit."
That's how the Warriors dominated a quality team that couldn't quite summon a quality effort. They rode some early offense by Stephen Curry to incite the crowd, and then spent the rest of the game making the Mavs (40-24) work for every bucket.
"It's just effort and energy and attention to detail," Curry said of the defense. "After the All-Star break, we hit a little defensive speed bump when teams were shooting over 50 percent and scoring over 100 points."
The Warriors delivered on defense. They did. But to get a true reading on whether this is a full recovery, one has to consider the circumstances. The Warriors were fed a pair of opponents they should have roasted.
They deserved a great deal of credit for following through, but there will be more tests to come and many will be under more challenging conditions, against teams better equipped to stress a defense that may have found its missing mojo.
The Warriors earned their league-best 34th double-digit win and have won at least 48 games in successive seasons for the first time since 1974-75 (48) and 1975-76 (franchise-record 59).
The Warriors blocked 11 shots, tying their season high, with Andrew Bogut and Shaun Livingston each getting three.
Curry's 22 points came on 6-of-11 shooting from the floor, including 5-of-8 on 3-pointers – the fourth consecutive game in which he drained at least five treys.
Livingston picked up his first double-double of the season: 10 points, 10 rebounds.
The Warriors, who have dipped on the glass lately, won the rebounding battle decisively, 51-34, further evidence of Mavs fatigue. Bogut snagged a game-high 13.
Oh those turnovers. Livingston led the giveaway club with six, followed by Klay Thompson donating four. Among the Warriors that played at least 15 minutes, only Green did not commit a turnover.
The Warriors did precisely as they expected they would, as they should have. They stomped a team they've come to own, beating Dallas for the sixth consecutive time. Defensive determination overcame offensive sloppiness. That won't be enough against every playoff team, every night, but when it's the Mavericks coming into a place that haunts them, it's supposed to be enough. On this night, it was.