OAKLAND – It's becoming a habit, the Warriors alternating marvelous team basketball with just enough moments of languid, almost reckless, mediocrity to keep opponents breathing.
And then Steve Kerr unleashes his pack of nasty little terriers. The result, more often than not, is those opponents suffocating beneath an onslaught of aggression.
The Milwaukee Bucks were quite the handful until those hateful dogs came out in the fourth quarter. With a lineup featuring five players between 6-foot-3 and 6-7, the Warriors chewed out a 102-93 victory Wednesday night at Oracle Arena.
"That was fun," said Draymond Green, the lead dog in the pack.
The Warriors (47-12) did it behind the late shooting of Stephen Curry, who scored seven points in the first three quarters before ringing up 12 in the fourth, including nine in one ferocious 65-second span.
They also did it behind the steady presence of Shaun Livingston, who played the entire quarter, submitting six points, on 3-of-4 shooting, three assists and no turnovers.
They did it mostly behind Green, the 6-7 forward who celebrated his 25th birthday by manning the center position and delivering game-highs in points (23), rebounds (12) and the intangible category of sheer determination.
Along with some variation of Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala and Harrison Barnes, this is Kerr's small lineup, and he's comfortable using it in most instances because it succeeds the majority of the time.
"The last three games, we have gone small in the fourth quarter," Kerr said. "We don't necessarily want to, but we feel like we are really good at it."
It certainly seems so. There are instances in which the Warriors simply can't go small. It would be competitive suicide. But they can do it against most teams. And very few of those teams can beat it, particularly on offense.
The Bucks committed 16 of their 24 turnovers in the second half, many against the gaggle of arms and hands that the terriers bring to the court. The Warriors nabbed 16 steals, all but two by a member of the terrier pack.
"We play very well when we go small," Green said. "Obviously, we play well when we're big, too. So it’s not like, 'Oh, it's the small lineup, the reason we won the game. We've won 47 games. Just about every lineup works.
"But, obviously, these last few games, this small lineup has really been working. A lot of teams have been trying to go small against us, and I think that works in our favor. I'll put our small lineup against anybody's in the league."
The Warriors for most of the game were bothered by Milwaukee's length and activity. The Bucks (32-29) are a solid defensive squad, and the Warriors were disrupted, particularly in the second and third quarters, when they committed 13 of their 18 turnovers.
That's also when the Bucks put together an 18-0 run, beginning with 1:47 left in the second and ending with 8:38 left in the third.
But the Warriors committed only two giveaways in the fourth, while shooting 55 percent and forcing five Milwaukee turnovers, off which they scored seven points.
The terriers bark and snarl and bite. They wreak havoc. And they attack as a unit. It's not ideal, but it usually works. On this night, the unit was a game-saver.
The Warriors improved to 25-2 at Oracle, the best home record in the league, and moved to 29-0 when they hold opponents under 100 points.
In addition to Green's scoring (9-of-14 from the field) and rebounding, he had three steals, three blocks and five assists.
Iguodala led the theft brigade, getting four steals.
Curry rang up 11 assists, nine in the first half.
Livingston had perhaps his best game of season, including 7-of-10 shooting, with three dunks.
Green's free throw shooting was dreadful. He was 1-of-6 from the line.
Klay Thompson's shooting struggles continued. He shot 5-of-16 from the field – and went back on the court after the game for extra shooting drills.
Kerr is comfortable with the small lineup, as he should be. It plays fast and it's effective. All five players usually can handle, can pass, can defend and can run. The key, though, is Green's ability to play center despite a decided height disadvantage. It usually doesn't seem to matter. This is befitting of the old saying: "It's not the size of the dog in the fight. It's the size of the fight in the dog."