OAKLAND -– When Draymond Green is effective at both ends, making shots while rebounding and defending so well his man disappears for long stretches, the ground beneath the Warriors is stable and firm.
And when Marreese Speights is pouring in jump shots and grinning and urging the Oracle Arena crowd to raise the volume, the atmosphere around the Warriors is lighter and cleaner and more refreshing.
Both delivered Wednesday night in the Warriors’ revivifying 115-94 beating of Utah.
“Mo was fantastic,” coach Steve Kerr said of the 6-foot-10 center/forward came off the bench to score a season-high 15 points in 15 minutes.
Green was even better. The 6-foot-7 forward finished with 17 points, seven rebounds, five assists, three blocked shots and two steals to finish plus-30 for the game. He was primarily responsible for Utah forward Derrick Favors having a miserable night: 11 points (5-of-12 shooting), four rebounds and a minus-17.
“Draymond was really, really good,” Kerr said. “. . . Night after night, whether he plays well or not by his standards, that plus-minus number is always at the top of the list. He just makes a huge impact on the game.”
The Warriors came into the game with a goal of shedding bad habits such as sloppy offense and haphazard defense. They accomplished both. They limited turnovers (nine through the first three quarters, 15 in all) and they locked down the Jazz, who shot 40.5 percent.
It helped that Andre Iguodala returned from his hamstring woes and played well at both ends. The defending champs looked, once again, like the defending champs.
Green had a lot to do with the performance, and so did Speights.
“When we have our type of game offensively,” Green said, “the defense falls in line.”
Utah’s starting frontcourt -– its best players -– shot a combined 12-of-31 from the field. In addition to Favors’ poor night, Gordon Hayward was 5-of-15 and 7-foot-1 center Rudy Gobert was 2-of-4.
The Warriors were so stingy that the Jazz couldn’t take advantage of superior rebounding. The Warriors owned an 81-63 lead after three quarters despite taking a 36-28 pounding on the glass.
“Coach preached that we need to focus on the last 20 games, getting ready for the playoffs,” Speights said. “Guys got focused. Guys went out there and played good basketball and ended up with a good win.”
With Speights dropping jumpers and the defense tearing Utah to pieces, the Oracle Arena crowd, which endured more than a few anxious moments in recent games, roared to life, pushing the Warriors to record their 46th consecutive victory at home.
“There’s a cohesiveness,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said of the Warriors’ seeming invincibility at home. “They have that in general, but in a sense it’s like they’re a living organism as a group. There’s a cohesiveness and fluidity that they all know where each other are going to be.”
“That connectedness they have, people feel in the building and (the Warriors) find it from the people in the building. It’s a difficult combination.”
Instead of the Warriors throwing the ball away, the Jazz did. The Warriors scored a whopping 28 points off 20 Utah turnovers. That clearly pleased Kerr, who bemoaned to futile attempts to make the spectacular play instead of the routine.
“Our focus was better,” Kerr said. “We ended up with 15 turnovers, six in the fourth. For the most part we did a really good job of just being solid.
“That’s the thing that I keep trying to pound home with these guys. We have so much depth and so much talent, solid is enough. And solid actually leads us to better shots than the home-run attempts.”
It was enough push the Warriors’ record to 57-6, one game ahead of the pace set by the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls in their NBA-record 72-10 season.
There was, of course, one home run attempt of note by the Warriors. Stephen Curry scored only 12 points (he had 10 assists), but three came when he banked in a 55-foot buzzer-beater at the half.
It was spectacular, to be sure. The fans loved it. But for Curry, such feats are becoming routine. And with that, Kerr has not problem whatsoever.