OAKLAND – With the countdown to the playoffs under way, the Warriors are firmly, visibly and undeniably in the boredom phase of the season. They're searching for mind tricks in hopes of finding inspiration.
They found just enough juice Saturday night to put away the Minnesota Timberwolves, a very coltish and thoroughly depleted outfit careening toward the draft lottery.
When you're as good as the Warriors are, and as bad as the Wolves are, the combination translates to a 110-101 victory that was as flat as Kansas.
"I just think they're ready for the playoffs," coach Steve Kerr said. "They want it. And I'm very confident that when that happens, when the playoffs come, our edge will be back."
[INSTANT REPLAY: Curry, Warriors hold off pesky T'Wolves]
Center Andrew Bogut did not disagree with his coach.
"These games are tough," he conceded, "because they don't have any bearing on the standings."
There is no urgency because nothing is at stake. The Warriors (65-15) won because they are, on merit, the best team in the NBA – and because Minnesota (16-64) is 5.5 games deep in the Western Conference cellar.
They won because they had Stephen Curry (34 points, seven assists) and Klay Thompson (23) powering the offense, while Draymond Green (13 points, 14 rebounds) did the dirty work, with considerable assistance from Harrison Barnes (13 and 12).
Then there was the third quarter defense, which harassed the Timberwolves into 19-percent (4-of-21) shooting, and gave the Warriors an 86-69 lead entering the fourth quarter.
With rookie Zach LaVine's brilliant impersonation of Russell Westbrook over the final 12 minutes (20 of his game-high 37 points, coming from every conceivable scoring angle), the Warriors needed every bit of that cushion to hang on.
"We weren't very good tonight," Kerr said. "It felt like we went through the motions a little bit."
So close was the game down the stretch that Kerr played four of his five starters at least nine of the final 12 minutes. Green played all 12. It's not the desired approach, but it was necessary to win the game.
"Man, we get paid to do that," Thompson said. "People pay to come watch us play, and they expect greatness. You've got to remind yourself of that."
Yes, the Warriors still crave victory, even though it does nothing more than add to their franchise-record for wins in a single season. This one also happened to be their franchise-record 37th win at home.
But the boredom phase can't be denied. It's the natural extension of locking up the best possible position with two weeks remaining. Kerr has been here before, when he was a player with Bulls and Spurs teams that won championships.
I asked Kerr if he might try borrowing tricks from the coaches, Phil Jackson in Chicago and Gregg Popovich in San Antonio.
"I've tried 'em all, trust me," he said.
Two more games are all that remain of the regular season. There is Memphis on Monday and Denver on Wednesday. The playoffs begin next weekend.
"We're obviously looking forward to it," Curry said of the postseason. "But you can't just press the fast-forward button. You have to go through each game and take it seriously and try to play your best."
That was tough to do Saturday night. And, still, the Warriors nabbed another record.
The third quarter defense was ferocious; Minnesota went almost eight minutes without a field goal.
Thompson was clutch down the stretch, draining all three of his treys in the final four minutes.
Barnes asserted himself in stretches, something the Warriors don't often see but always hope to see.
The listless early play, particularly on defense, played the major role in the Timberwolves shooting 15 free throws and taking a 31-28 lead in the first quarter.
Thompson made big shots, but took 25. That's more volume than Kerr would like.
Eighty down, two to go. That's where the Warriors are. There is no zest, at least not on this night, against this team. That could change at the sight of the contending Grizzlies. Or maybe not. The Warriors, after all, are eager to get on with the games that will truly determine how they will be judged.