OAKLAND -– The Warriors showed up on Friday night and did what a legitimate championship contender should do, stepping onto their home court to face a wounded opponent and showing no mercy.
The result was a breezy 112-96 victory over a New Orleans Pelicans team missing its MVP candidate, its starting point guard, its starting center and its most dangerous scorer off the bench.
There have been occasions this season when facing a struggling or unhealthy opponent invited a sort of temporary complacency among the Warriors, as if the game was won before tipoff. They'd like to think those days are over, even if the awful Lakers put a scare into them as recently as Monday night.
"That's something we've definitely taken note of and really focused on," said forward Draymond Green, who snagged a team-high eight rebounds in 27 minutes.
The Pelicans were without Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, Omer Asik and Ryan Anderson. They were game enough but clearly overmatched, and once the Warriors went ahead midway through the first quarter, there was never a question of who would win.
The Warriors (55-13) led by 11 at the half, by 18 after three quarters and by as much as 27 in the fourth.
"We've had a few games this year, early in the season when stars were missing for the opponent and we didn't respond very well," Warriors coach Steve Kerr recalled. "We seemed lazy and disinterested. Tonight was a very professional effort. We've grown. I really think we've matured in that regard."
Nobody appears more professional and determined than Harrison Barnes. The forward, who so often disappears on the court, suddenly has become a strutting peacock with fangs.
Coming off a career-high 25-point performance in a marquee win over the Hawks on Wednesday, Barnes scored a game-high 22 points and did it on 9-of-13 shooting. He attacked with deliberate abandon, sometimes soaring toward the rim but other times pulling up.
With All-Star guard Klay Thompson (sprained right ankle) out for the second game in a row, Barnes has been exactly what the Warriors needed him to be –- and what they'd like him to more frequently be when Thompson returns next week.
"He's been more intent on attacking, pulling up from 17 feet when he's got a shot," Kerr said. He's got a lot more to his game than we’ve seen.
"With Klay out, he's sort of taken it upon himself to attack. And he's probably getting the ball a little bit more too. We always want him and Andre (Iguodala) to attack. When those two guys are aggressive we tend to play well."
With less than four weeks remaining in the regular season, the Warriors are striving not so much to reach their peak as to discover what it is. The idea is to find it and keep it and try to contain into the playoffs.
One measurement is how focused they are when they may not need full focus.
"It's about us now," Green said. "Fifteen games left in the season, it's about getting into a groove, executing defensively and offensively and trying to roll into the playoffs. It's not really about who (the Pelicans) put out there on the floor or who anybody else puts out there on the floor. It's about us trying to get our rhythm and our flow going into the playoffs.
"I think we're beyond that (temporary complacency) stage. It's about time to start playing for the next step."
Nobody played more than 27 minutes (Green), which was desirable insofar as the Warriors are back in action Saturday night against Utah.
Barnes was, for the second consecutive game, a man on a mission. Two nights after making 85 percent of his shots, he dropped in 71 percent against the Pelicans.
Marreese Speights was efficient off the bench, with 13 points, on 6-of-8 shooting, including a 3-pointer at the first-quarter buzzer.
David Lee logged 20 quietly effective minutes, with 7 points (7-of-7 shooting) and seven rebounds.
Not much to see here, unless you want to pick on poor Stephen Curry. The MVP candidate had a forgettable night: 4-of-17 shooting, including 2-of-10 from beyond the arc. He missed his first seven treys.
The Warriors caught a team on a hook and didn't let it breathe. That's what the team with the best record in the NBA is supposed to do, especially on its home court, where it is practically invincible. They had no business being threatened by, much less losing to, the Pelicans.
Can Barnes keep up the pace of his last two games? No. He's shooting 77 percent during that stretch, and nobody does that. But HB if stays aggressive and smart, even after Thompson returns, the Warriors will be infinitely more dangerous on offense.