OAKLAND – There are nights when the Warriors compete much less with the opposing team than with their own standard. Nights like Wednesday, when the slumping Detroit Pistons dropped into Oracle Arena.
The Pistons have exactly two players capable of giving them a chance: 6-foot-11 center Andre Drummond and 6-11 forward Greg Monroe. After that, it's a collection of veterans and youngsters who can neither shoot nor defend.
The Warriors, knowing this, treated the Pistons with a nonchalance that often strayed into inattention. That's how the Warriors found themselves trailing in the fourth quarter.
Realizing the urgency of the matter, they resorted to five minutes of shock-and-awe defense, igniting an 18-2 run, to deliver a 105-98 victory.
"Detroit is struggling," coach Steve Kerr said of the Pistons, who lost their eighth straight. "But they have talented players. If you let a team hang around, anything can happen and that's what we saw.
"We had to really fight. That game should have been a lot easier for us if had just done what were supposed to do in the first half."
The Warriors (51-12) led by 13 (44-31, 7:43 left in the second quarter) and it appeared they were on the verge of burying the Pistons, who lost the Lakers on Tuesday night Los Angeles. But Detroit pushed back, closing the half on a 20-12 run. They went into the locker room with a measure of faith.
"We should have been up 15 going into halftime," said Klay Thompson, who scored a game-high 27 points.
The Pistons kept it going in the third quarter and into the fourth. With Drummond dominating the glass (13 rebounds in the third quarter, 27 for the game), they took 30 shots. Put up that many while taking care of the ball, and shooting 40 percent doesn't hurt so much.
"He's almost like a shooter in a sense, because you can't leave his body to go help," Andrew Bogut said of Drummond. "Every time you do, he gets an offensive rebound."
The Pistons (23-41) were threatening to win a game they had no business winning – until the Warriors summoned the resolve to take it.
Down 81-79 with 9:26 to play, the Warriors went on an 18-2 run to go up 97-83 with 4:39 left. During that spell, they forced the Pistons to miss three of four shots and commit four turnovers. After committing seven through three quarters, they had eight giveaways in the fourth.
"We reverted to trying to force plays, instead of just moving the basketball against a great defensive team," Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said.
The Warriors, once again, woke up behind the small team. The rally was achieved mostly on the work of six players: Marreese Speights, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, Leandro Barbosa, Shaun Livingston and Thompson. Everybody defended, and Thompson scored 10 of the points to provide separation.
That was enough to obscure the 16 turnovers that led to 14 Detroit points, as well as the rebounding disadvantage (52-42) that allowed Detroit to take 15 more shots, resulting in a 25-12 difference in second-chance points.
"The first half, I was really upset with the turnovers," Kerr said. "But I was really pleased with the defense in the second half and the fight we had when the game got close."
Truth is, the game should not have been that close. The Warriors are the infinitely better team. But there are games, and nights, when the scrap doesn't come naturally, when it must be manufactured. Once it surfaced on Wednesday, Detroit was done.
"It's easy to let down in the position that we're in," Kerr said, "but we're trying to get ready for every game down the stretch and in the postseason.
"What I tell the guys is that we have a standard that we are trying to meet every night. If you meet that standard consistently during the regular season, then you are more than likely going to meet it during the playoffs."
The Warriors won their fifth consecutive game, lifting their home record to 28-2, best in the NBA. They are 33-0 when holding teams to fewer than 100 points.
Thompson was the offensive savior, making 11 of his 19 shots, including three of his six 3-pointers. He became the 28th Warrior to pass the 5,000-point mark.
The bench, led by Iguodala (13 points), Speights (12) and Barbosa (10) outscored the Detroit reserves 38-25 and shot 60.7 percent.
Stephen Curry's shooting eye was blind for most of the night. He was 4-of-15, 1-of-7 from deep.
The Warriors took a pounding on the glass, getting outrebounded for the 10th time in 14 games.
The Warriors committed seven turnovers in the second quarter, six in the final 5:33.
The Warriors won despite failing to meet their standard. That has happened before and likely will happen again. It's indicative of a quality team.
But there has been, of late, a bit of a trend. The Warriors often play down to the competition. Part of it comes from knowing they're in great position, with a comfortable lead atop the Western Conference. Part of it comes from realizing that any close game can be busted open with a few minutes of torrid defense. It's a habit they can get away with in many regular-season games but can bite them in the playoffs.