OAKLAND -– After their resounding statement Wednesday night, routing the best team in the Eastern Conference, there was on Thursday just the slightest hint of an afterglow about the Warriors.
The hint was ever so slight because they, too, can read the schedule.
Behind them is the marquee game with the Atlanta Hawks, the potential NBA Finals preview. Next up, though, are the New Orleans Pelicans, a potential first-round matchup in the Western Conference playoffs. The Pelicans come to Oracle Arena on Friday night.
"The breaks went our way last night," coach Steve Kerr said of his team's 114-95 waxing of the Hawks. "But, overall, we earned a lot of those breaks. We had a great night, but we've got to keep it going."
The Pelicans and the Thunder have been swapping places in recent days, both fighting for the eighth and final postseason berth in the West. New Orleans (37-30) entered Thursday night's game at Phoenix in ninth place, a half-game behind OKC.
Yet they have been perhaps the most resilient team in the league this season. A playoff dark horse at the start, they're in the race despite being assaulted by an unending succession of injuries.
Starting point guard Jrue Holiday has missed 30 games and hopes to return next month. Starting shooting guard Eric Gordon missed 21 games before returning in January. Sixth man Ryan Anderson has missed 15 games and hopes to return next month. And then, oh yeah, there's power forward Anthony Davis, who has missed 12 games.
Asked if he has seen much of Davis, Kerr said he has not. And maybe he was repressing the memories of his last glimpse of AD, which came on Dec. 4 at Oracle Arena. Davis torched the Warriors for 30 points (on 14-of-19 shooting) and 15 rebounds and three blocks in a 112-85 Warriors victory.
Asked about Davis after that game, Warriors forward Draymond Green offered a breathless three-word response: "He's a problem."
Despite the absences, Davis has been fantastic enough to thrust himself into the MVP debate. He's fourth in points (24.6 per game), tied for ninth in rebounding (10.4) and first in blocked shots (2.93). He's the only player in the league averaging at least 20 points yet among the top 10 in field-goal percentage (54.2). He leads all players in efficiency rating.
"He's going to be a problem in the league for a long time," Stephen Curry, widely considered the front-runner for MVP, said of Davis. "He's a big reason why they're fighting for that eighth spot with all the injuries they've had and while shuffling the roster.
"He's got the total package, pretty much. It's just a matter of how good he's really going to be. He's already great."
So, yes, there was measure of satisfaction with locking down the Hawks and avenging a 124-116 loss on Feb. 6 in Atlanta. But that contentment was tempered with the knowledge of what comes next – and how daunting a challenge it will be.