OAKLAND – The Warriors on Sunday did what they’ve done so perfectly throughout this magnificent season. They recovered and responded and, ultimately, prevailed.
Their ability to get up after every knockdown, to come up swinging and connecting, may be their defining characteristic. It was on display in a 136-111 lashing of the Portland Trail Blazers before a deliriously relieved sellout crowd at Oracle Arena.
The Warriors were coming off their eighth loss of the season, and they had followed each of the previous seven with a victory. This one would be different, perhaps, because loss No. 8, to the Celtics on Friday, was their first of the season at home.
How would they answer a defeat that punctured perfection? Emphatically.
“It’s this team’s character,” said forward Draymond Green, who posted his 13th triple-double of the season (22 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists). “We take a loss, kind of get frustrated, mad, and then we’ll lock back in. Sometimes you need to every now and then.”
After seeing their own blood early, when Portland swished 13 of its first 17 shots and took an 11-point lead (37-26) with 1:37 left in the first quarter, the Warriors took full ownership of the Blazers and the game.
They outscored Portland 110-74 over the final 37-plus minutes.
“We took care of the ball; 13 turnovers is a good number,” coach Steve Kerr said. “Thirty assists is a great number; we were really moving the ball. The bench came in and played well. The bench, in the beginning of the second quarter, really changed the game defensively for us. We started (getting) stops because Portland was scorching hot in that first quarter.
“When everybody plays well and you’re locked in, it’s a good game. This was a good night for us.”
It was an especially good night for Steph Curry, who outpointed rival point guard Damian Lillard, 39-38, while also achieving the win that keeps the Warriors (69-8) a game ahead of the pace set by the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls.
Not that such a performance is unusual for Curry. The reigning MVP tends to find something deeper and more profound when facing those who offer a legitimate challenge. And Lillard, to be sure, was keeping the Blazers in the game, particularly in a third quarter in which he scored 16 points to Curry’s 14.
“That’s what was going to kind of decide the game at that point,” Curry said. “Who could keep the momentum going throughout the rest of the game? He’s obviously a great player and has had some big nights against us shooting.”
For Curry, then, this game had a dual purpose. One, there was the need to defend his team’s turf against Lillard and the Blazers. Two, there was the need to bounce back from the Warriors’ first regular season home defeat since Jan. 27, 2015.
“That’s what we’re all about, our resiliency and what we said before the game that we can’t lose focus of our goal for the season,” he said. “We’re chasing something, but we take pride in not having lost two in a row.
“It hurt to lose last game and see that streak end, so we wanted to come back and take advantage of the opportunity we had tonight.”
The Warriors understand where they are on the NBA’s pecking order. They won it all last season and they own the best record this season. They often can cruise to victory, and sometimes that knowledge can be dangerous.
There was no cruising on Sunday, not even during that early double-digit deficit. Memories of two nights earlier were fresh in the mind.
“The punch in the mouth was more from Boston the other night,” Kerr said, crediting the Blazers for playing well early. “(The Celtics) outplayed us for the first 43 minutes of the game and it was too late to come back.
“Tonight felt more like who we are, on a consistent basis.”
This was an example of who the Warriors have been for most of this season, unfailingly so in the wake of defeat. Now 8-0 under those circumstances, they’re pretty good at wiping off their own blood and fighting back.