OAKLAND –- Easter Sunday afternoon began sleepily for the Warriors, who came strolling into their cozy Oracle Arena home knowing they were facing the 76ers, awful when whole but on this day, with two starters sidelined, downright abysmal.
The lethargy was understandable and visible until Marreese Speights entered the game late in the first quarter and began playing as if the game actually mattered, followed by Klay Thompson, playing as if he invented the jump shot.
The two sharpshooters, as hot as anybody in the league, turned a drowsy beginning into a gorgeous end, allowing the Warriors to run away with a 117-105 victory that them, at 66-7, the best record in NBA history through 73 games.
Thompson scored 40 points on 15-of-27 shooting, including 7-of-14 from deep and 3-of-3 from the line, as he continues to be the hottest 3-point bomber in the NBA.
“He’s not hesitating, not that he ever did before,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “He is just finding shots everywhere. He’s a model shooter.
“He always thinks he’s hot, whether he is or not. It’s a good mentality to have as a shooter.”
Oh Thompson is hot, scalding hot. He’s shooting 56.8 percent (67 of 118) from deep over the past 12 games, including 62.2 percent (28 of 45) over the last four. His stroke, conceivably the purest in the league, has been consistent and his concentration, which sometimes wavers, has been steady.
“I don’t think I’m looking too far into the future, as far as the playoffs or the next game,” Thompson said. “I’m just trying to take it one day at a time, as clichéd as that sounds. In my five years, I’ve learned that you have to live in the present.”
Thompson has built an impressive resume as a Western Conference Player of the Week candidate and also deserves strong consideration for Player of the Month. The 6-foot-7 guard’s shooting has been so stunningly accurate, and his scoring has been so consistently good, that it mostly neutralizes his relatively low rebounding and assist totals. His 40 points were “supplemented” by two rebounds and one assist.
“As long as we win,” Thompson said, “I don’t mind.”
Though it was Thompson who punished the Sixers throughout and eventually buried them, it was Speights who woke up his teammates and blasted the sleep from their eyes.
“Mo was terrific; he’s been fantastic this last month or so,” Kerr said.
Speights in the first half was practically perfect on offense, scoring 15 of his 17 points, making all six of his field goals, including a pair of 3-pointers. He also made his only free throw and passed for two assists.
And, because he could, Speights grabbed six rebounds.
He did it all in less than nine minutes, during which time the Warriors turned a one-point deficit into an 11-point lead. The 76ers (9-65) were done.
“The volume of points they can score in such short bursts is breathtaking,” Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said. “You’re just coming down the floor and they’re always looking to rise up.
“With Klay, you forget how big of a man he is apart from his quick release. So you’re always afraid of this barrage of points, threes and all of that. Marreese Speights came in, and that’s a big man who can shoot, too. All over the place, they’re hard to guard.”
So spectacular were Thompson and Speights that one had to peek past the fireworks to see that Draymond Green became the first Warriors with 12 triple-doubles in a season, finishing with 13 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists.
As for Steph Curry’s 20 points, eight assists and four steals, well, it was just another excellent performance among many by the Warriors, who routinely amaze.
“They’re fantastic,” Kerr said. “Our guys are great. They just keep doing it. It’s not as easy as they make it look.”