OAKLAND -- On Friday night at Oracle Arena, the Warriors delivered an emphatic answer to the question on the tip of so many tongues: Does this group still have its special chemistry and camaraderie?
A 100-93 victory over the streaking Grizzlies provided a resounding affirmative.
The Warriors won despite power forward David Lee out with a hamstring injury. They won despite center Andrew Bogut limping off with a game-ending pelvic injury four minutes into the game. They won despite being down seven with four minutes to play.
They won with Marreese Speights, out of the rotation for most of the month, starting and submitting an effective 26 minutes. They won with a 14-0 run over the final four minutes against a Memphis team playing the stingiest defense in the NBA.
The Warriors (45-27) won with plenty of raw emotion, much of which undoubtedly stemmed from a particularly challenging week for coach Mark Jackson.
[RECAP: Warriors 100, Grizzlies 93]
"We always have his back," said Stephen Curry, who finished with a game-high 33 points and was the catalyst throughout.
"Coach is a guy we fight for, and we're going to continue to fight for," said Draymond Green, who came off the bench to score 12 points and grab nine rebounds. "He's given his all to us and we're going to continue to give our all to him. This is a team and this is a unit that is locked together. We’re locked in together."
There were questions about that in the wake of a story on the Yahoo Sports website early this week implying the sudden demotion of assistant coach Brian Scalabrine on Monday was indicative of an "increasingly dysfunctional" atmosphere under Jackson. There were other unbecoming allegations, most of which were refuted by Jackson and others mentioned in story.
[RELATED: Warriors work amid increased scrutiny]
But nothing refutes the notion of an unstable coach losing his grip quite like an unlikely comeback victory over a longtime nemesis.
The Warriors, after losing 11 straight to the Grizzlies, have won the last two meetings. And this was, under the circumstances, conceivably the most surprising win of the season.
Moreover, it was a game with profound implications on the Western Conference playoff race. The Grizzlies (43-29) took the floor one game behind the Warriors and walked off two games back.
[RELATED: NBA standings]
"This is who this team is," Jackson said. "We were shorthanded, with tailor-made excuses, with guys being hurt and they just battled. If I have to go with a group, I'm going with this group. I believe in these guys."
This group clearly is going with him and believes in him. Despite the background noise, their union has been successful, as the Warriors reached the 45-win mark in consecutive seasons for the first time since accomplishing the feat in three straight seasons from 1974-77.
THE GOOD: Curry, magnificent. He made a dazzling variety of clutch shots and flicked gorgeous passes.
Despite losing their starting big men, the Warriors managed a 43-33 rebounding advantage.
"That says a lot about the heart of this team, the character of this team and the will of this team," Green said. "We knew where we were in the standings, and we knew where they were. So to come out and outrebound that team -- which we knew would be critical in this game -- was big for us."
Speights was a surprise starter, but he brought energy and production.
THE BAD: Seeing Bogut leave in the first quarter was dreadful sight. The Warriors immediately suffered, particularly on defense, when he exited. Memphis shot 50.6 percent only because it missed its final seven shots.
[RELATED: Bogut exits with pelvic contusion]
Bogut will receive an MRI on Saturday, after which his status will be determined.
THE TAKE: With all the negative chatter around them, the Warriors needed a statement win to silence the crowd. They got it, even when a loss would have been understood. This kind of victory happens only when a team is unified and committed to the cause.
"They're playing for themselves," Jackson said. "I'm proud of them. Every single night they should be playing with a purpose, with a passion, with a commitment, to send a message. Not to anybody in particular, but to whoever is watching. That's how we go about our business."
Jackson didn't have to respond to his critics. His team did it for him.