OAKLAND – The volume of the noise is slowly diminishing. The skeptics are reconsidering, the believers are exhaling and the Warriors are making a point some disputed when the playoffs began.
If you take your eyes off their jump-shooting offense long enough, you might conclude their defense is capable of carrying them deep into this postseason.
It certainly looked that way Wednesday night at Oracle Arena, where the Warriors posted a 98-78 victory in Game 5 of their Western Conference Semifinals series with Memphis, taking a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.
One more victory, and the Warriors move into the conference finals.
The Warriors won because they produced just enough offense while smothering the Grizzlies with an overdose of defense. This followed a similar performance, only with more offense, in a Game 4 win that evened the series.
"The last two games have kind of been where we want it to be," Stephen Curry said. "Just getting stops is the most important part of it."
They got plenty of defensive stops, as Memphis missed 50 of its 83 shots, allowing the Warriors to grab rebounds, shift into overdrive and blast into that jump-shooting offense some doubt will hold up in the playoffs.
The Warriors drained 14 of 30 3-pointers, many at the end of fast breaks fueled by the defense.
"I thought it was almost exclusively the defense," coach Steve Kerr said of his team's 31-6 advantage in fast-break points. "We sped the game up with our defensive activity and forced some turnovers."
The Grizzlies, for the second game in a row, had 16 turnovers. The Warriors turned them into 19 points.
But it wasn't just the way the Warriors' defense generated offense. They also played terrific individual and team defense. Memphis center Marc Gasol, alternately harassed by Draymond Green and Andrew Bogut and David Lee, missed 13 of his first 19 shots. Power forward Zach Randolph made his first four shots before the Warriors recovered to force misses on six of his last eight attempts.
"We gave him a little too much space early," Kerr said.
After Randolph's initial burst, nobody wearing a Grizzlies uniform was allowed to heat up. The Warriors pulled away by outscoring Memphis 48-32 in the second and third quarters.
"We can't put up two 16-point quarters," Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger said of the middle periods, "and play against a team that can score."
Not one that scores at the rate the Warriors can light up a scoreboard. It's simple math. If the Warriors are making 3-pointers, and the opponent is making 2-pointers – Memphis relies on inside scoring – the Warriors are going to accumulate more points.
If the opponent is missing most of those 2-pointers, the Warriors likely will win big.
"They had to work on every possession," said Curry, who had six steals. "If you stay physical, eventually you're going to get stops."
The Warriors were physical enough to outrebound the husky Grizzlies (44-43) while also outscoring them in the paint (34-30). If the jump-shooting Warriors are winning inside, Memphis has no chance.
If the jump-shooting Warriors are administering stifling defensive on Memphis inside and out, the Grizzlies have no chance.
"This unit is very dynamic because we've been together for a year," Andre Iguodala said. "So we kind of understand each other. We can kind of switch it up. We can go big, go small, we can be really quick and we communicate very well. Just the way we're moving out there and we're all in sync, it's hard to really describe."
Not really. It's defense, the way good teams play it. It's what makes the rest of the game easier, whether it's the regular season or the playoffs.
And it might, along the way, alter a few opinions about the Warriors.
Klay Thompson, who missed his first four shots, was the only Warrior to top the 20-point mark, with a game-high 21. He drained three of his four shots beyond the arc.
Curry, who scored 18 points on six 3-pointers, became first player in NBA history with six 3-pointers and six steals in a playoff game.
Bogut played a very economical 24 minutes, grabbing a team-high nine rebounds and tying his playoff career-high with four blocks.
Harrison Barnes scored 14 points, his fifth consecutive game in double figures.
David Lee, playing 17 minutes, finished with six points and seven rebounds.
Curry and Barnes each had five turnovers.
Draymond Green's shot was MIA, as he missed all five of his 3-point attempts. (Yet he managed to be a force, with a game-high nine assists.)
After a slow start, the Warriors played at their desired pace and made it their kind of game. They used their defense to trigger their offense, which is too explosive for Memphis to match. Once the Warriors went up 17 late in the third quarter, this one was over and the Grizzlies knew it.
Yes, the Warriors shoot a lot of jump shots. But they also can play a mean game of defense. Two such games, back to back, have them on the brink of advancing.