OAKLAND – It's highly improbable that the Warriors, no matter the stakes, have ever run into an 18-point victory so undeniably ugly yet so stunningly beautiful.
The turnovers came in bunches, 28 in all. Warriors were fouling Clippers, 31 times in all, as if each whistle delivered a bonus. They at times looked like complete strangers uncomfortably moving about the same space.
Yet when you peel all that away and study this 125-107 preseason win over the Clippers on Tuesday night, how can you not marvel at the sight of Festus Ezeli, back on the court and immediately making opponents feel his muscular presence?
It had been 17 months since Ezeli joined his teammates for a game of any kind. Finally past the June 2013 knee surgery and the countless setbacks since, the 7-foot backup center celebrated his 25th birthday at Oracle Arena by proving that he can be a difference-maker for these Warriors.
Ezeli's 11 minutes of playing time accommodated 10 points, three rebounds and a blocked shot. More than the numbers, he looked more agile and fluid than ever. His time was off, just a bit, but his game clearly has grown during his absence.
"It's been a long time coming," Ezeli said. "A lot of hard work put in by me, my coaches, training staff."
Ezeli entered with 3:05 left in the first quarter. His next three minutes featured a blocked shot, turnaround jump-hook and a jam off a lob from Andre Iguodala. He went to the line early in the second quarter for two free throws and drained both.
"Festus has done a lot of work on his free throws and on his jump hooks," coach Steve Kerr said. "We have plenty of shooting around him, so if we can stretch the floor with with ball movement and penetration we can do with him with the Clippers do with (DeAndre Jordan) – get the defense moving and then throw a quick lob that he can dunk."
With starting center Andrew Bogut out ill, Ezeli's contribution was all the more welcome, as was that of substitute starter Ognjen Kuzmic, who finished with eight points and 10 rebounds in 27 minutes.
If those two can offer anything close to that, and Bogut stays healthy, the Warriors in the regular season will be more formidable in the paint than at any time since their peak years of the mid-1970s.
THE GOOD: Ezeli was more active and effective than most had a right to expect, given his 17-month absence from the game. His footwork is much improved, and he displayed very little rust in short minutes.
Stephen Curry shot exceptionally well, making 9-of-13 overall and 4-of-5 from beyond the arc.
Iguodala played a terrific all-around game: 11 points, four assists, two rebounds, two steals and zero turnovers.
"He's just so smart and figures everything out," Kerr said. "He was by far our best player out there tonight."
THE BAD: The turnovers just kept coming and coming, with Curry committing six and Draymond Green throwing in four.
"It's crazy, because we scored 125 points, shot 59 percent and made 13 threes and we all feel like we played horribly," Kerr said.
One part of the problem could be attributed to the use of so many lineups. Another part was sloppy play during some borderline reckless moments.
THE TAKE: Ezeli showed what is possible if he continues to evolve. Now that he's back on the floor, there's no reason he shouldn't.
Shooting guard Justin Holiday continued to impress, expanding his lead in taking one of the final roster spots. Kerr raves about the depth of his team. It was evident, even as the Clippers sat stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.