OAKLAND – For the first 12 minutes Friday night, the Warriors brought a crackling energy and execution similar to that which served them so well in two road spankings earlier this week. It was as if they were out to make a point.
Out to show that, no, they were not looking past the Indiana Pacers and toward the epic Monday night battle against the San Antonio Spurs.
And then, suddenly, as if on cue, after building a 17-point lead in less than seven minutes, the Warriors began to regress – not enough to kick back what became a 122-110 victory, but enough to displease coach Steve Kerr in his season debut before an adoring sellout crowd at Oracle Arena.
“We didn’t play to our standard tonight,” Kerr said. “Our standard is what we did the last two games in Cleveland and Chicago. Not necessarily winning by 30 – that would be nice but that’s unrealistic.”
The Warriors (40-4) won by 34 in Cleveland on Monday and by 31 in Chicago on Wednesday. Neither opponent got within single digits in the second half, as the Warriors rang up 71 assists, while committing only 18 turnovers, in those two games.
They committed 17 turnovers against the Pacers (23-20), who scored 23 points off those miscues. They capitalized on Warriors mistakes well enough to keep chipping at the deficit, getting within seven in the second quarter and within six in the fourth.
After shooting 32 percent in the first quarter, Indiana shot 51.4 percent over the final three. The Warriors were fortunate the Pacers weren’t able to knock down 3-pointers, missing 14 of the 17 they hoisted.
“We got stops in the first quarter and were able to open up the game,” Steph Curry said. “It got a little ugly after that, but that good start propelled us to this win.”
As often is the case, Curry’s presence and production erased a lot of errors. His second triple-double this season – 39 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds – was necessary for the Warriors to keep Indiana from completing a comeback.
To hear Klay Thompson (18 points on 6-of-16 shooting) tell it, Curry was better than his impressive numbers.
“I’ve got to pick it up, personally,” he said. “Steph should’ve had 16 assists if it weren’t for me.”
Draymond Green (10-of-15 shooting) and Curry (11-of-19, including 8-of-15 from beyond the 3-point arc) aside, the rest of the Warriors shot as if the basket were locked shut: 39.3 percent (22 of 56).
There were times indeed when it appeared the Warriors might be taking Pacers lightly. In any case, the defending champs didn’t play nearly as well in their first game back home as they did in the last two on the road trip.
“The first game back at home is kind of the trap you can fall into,” Curry said.
“The assist-to-turnover ratio is always the first thing I look at on the box score,” Kerr said. “And then the defensive effort; are we defending without fouling? Are we pressuring the ball and getting teams out of their rhythm?
“We didn’t do that tonight. We turned it over and we fouled too much.”
[INSTANT REPLAY: Warriors run past Pacers in Kerr's return]
The Warriors avoided being penalized by converting on second shots (26 points) and getting out on the fast break, outscoring Indiana 30-18 in that category thanks mostly to a 14-3 advantage in the opening quarter.
That was enough to beat Indiana. A similar performance against San Antonio on Monday night would invite trouble.
“They’re a very good team that takes advantage of mistakes,” Green said. “We have to be better than we were tonight defensively and as far as taking care of the ball.”
From the sound of it, the Warriors understand that they’ll need to get back to the level displayed against the Cavaliers and the Bulls. That would beat most any team, on any night.
They didn’t have it on Friday against the Pacers, and it did not matter.