OAKLAND –- They came out with fury, bringing it at both ends, clearly eager to wipe away all traces of the stinker they served up on national TV a day earlier. Yet when it was over Monday night, the Warriors were simultaneously satiated and hungry.
They were pleased to achieve a 45th consecutive win at Oracle Arena, setting that NBA record for home successive home wins with a 119-113 victory over Orlando.
They were relatively joyless in its wake because the accomplishment came despite a second consecutive inelegant performance.
“Yeah, 46 turnovers in the last 36 hours. Inexcusable,” coach Steve Kerr said, adding two giveaways to the actual total.
“We know we’re not right,” veteran guard Leandro Barbosa told CSNBayArea.com. “We’re going to have a day off (Tuesday) and I think maybe we’re a little tired, mentally. Unfortunately this is not the time for us to feel like that.
“This is the time get together and figure out how we’re going to do it.”
At issue was ball security. One day after committing 20 turnovers in a loss to the awful Lakers, the Warriors coughed up 24 – tying a season-high – to the Magic. Inasmuch as seven of the giveaways came in the fourth quarter, it’s easy to see what happened to the 17-point lead the Warriors had at the end of three.
Orlando got within two, 111-109, with 1:13 remaining, before the Warriors put together an 8-2 closing run.
“Every team has 12 turnovers a game, minimum,” Kerr said. “The team leading the league averages 12 or 13 a game, so some are going to happen. But I can rattle off 10, easy, that were just inexcusable.”
When the defending champions are sloppy on offense, the biggest casualty is their defense. It’s tough to set the defense when the opponent is racing off with your gift. To stop fast breaks, the Warriors often resort to fouling.
Either option results in the Warriors hurting themselves.
“Our defense won’t get better until our offense gets better,” said Draymond Green, who fought through illness but was guilty of committing seven turnovers. “That really needs to improve.”
Yet the Warriors managed to hold on, to cling to a game they inadvertently turned into a struggle. That’s partly due to Orlando’s own struggles but mostly attributed to the powers of Stephen Curry, who finished with team-highs in points (41) and rebounds (13), and Klay Thompson, who dropped in 27 points.
“We are winning and Steph is bailing us out an awful lot and he bailed us out tonight,” Kerr said. “But we can’t count on that, and we can’t rely on that.
“We need to get back to being the best defensive team in the league, which we were a year ago – which we are not right now anywhere close to.”
The postgame locker room was, according to several players, relatively subdued for a team with a 56-6 record that had just won its 45th consecutive home game. That, it seemed, was more of a gift to Warriors fans than to the players themselves.
“It’s a compliment to our coaching staff, the consistency that we’ve had, and our players for every night bringing that winning mentality,” Curry said of the record. “It doesn’t mean every game is going to be pretty, but you find a way to get it done.”
Such was the case on Monday night. The Warriors reeled off a 13-0 run midway through the first quarter to take a lead (24-12) they never lost. They defended like demons in the first half, limiting Orlando to 37 percent shooting. They defended like lemons in the second half, as the Magic (27-35) wiped out a 19-point deficit by shooting 52.3 percent after intermission.
Orlando, which in its last game mustered only 84 points in a loss to the wretched Suns, poured in 67 in the second half against the defending champs. Of the 67, 11 came directly off Warriors turnovers.
“We’re going to have turnovers, the way we play,” Curry said. “There are going to be some when we’re trying to make the right play, when our intentions are good, but we just don’t execute it . . . but the 10 to 12 of them that are unforced and uncharacteristic, that’s where we get into trouble.”
The Warriors prevailed in spite of their recklessness. They etched their names once more into the record book even as they failed to impress themselves. One day after losing ugly, they won ugly.