OAKLAND – The Warriors took a quantum leap between preseason games 1 and 2. Sloppy and languid in the opener last Saturday in Vancouver, they came home Tuesday and delivered a performance that had their fans giggling in the aisles.
They won big, 120-75, and the walloped opponent was the once-pesky Clippers, who are in danger of becoming little more than a downstate annoyance.
A quick 18-5 Warriors lead grew to 29-9 late in the first quarter and 71-33 at the half. The Warriors have beaten LA six straight times in the regular season, and they seemed to see this as an opportunity to jump on the Clips with both feet.
“This was the Clippers’ first game and they looked like we did in our first game in Vancouver,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “They didn’t have their antenna up and we did and that’s why we got out to that big lead.”
The Warriors brought the offense early and often, ringing up 71 first-half points on 59.5-percent shooting. Klay Thompson blazed away, scoring 24 of his game-high 30 before halftime, and Kevin Durant, making his Oracle Arena debut, poured in 18 of his 21 in the first half.
“For the most part we moved the ball well,” Durant said of the Warriors, who totaled 29 assists – 19 on 22 buckets in the first half. “Bodies were moving and had open shots for everybody. It was fun.”
The offense flowed. It was active and rhythmic and exceedingly tough to defend. It succeeded partly because the Clippers dozed though the half and partly because the Warriors showed signs of assimilating their abundant talent.
The attractive offensive options are plenty, and it’s going to take time to grow accustomed to having it all. There were times Tuesday when point guard Stephen Curry could race down the floor and choose between Thompson and Durant. Curry also had himself as a third option, and he led the NBA in scoring last season.
“That’s a part of who we’re going to be,” he said. “You don’t want to be too unselfish where you’re turning down shots because I might think there’s a better one coming, but I just tried to make the right play but be aggressive at the same time. There’s a balance to it that you want to be able to figure out.”
The Warriors were no less impressive on defense, holding Los Angeles to 32.5-percent shooting – only 24.4 percent and 33 points in the first half – and limiting the starters to 5-of-35 shooting overall.
“Defensively, we were really good at limiting their offensive rebounds and also making them shoot tough shots over the top of us,” Durant said. “If we continue to play that way on the defensive end, with that intensity, we’ll be fine.”
This was dominance on a broad scale, an illustration of one team, the Warriors, inching toward its comfort level, and another, though mostly intact, scrambling to keep up.
“I’m very pleased with the progress we made tonight,” Kerr said. “But now we have to lock in and have some good practices and string one good day after the next and that’s where you really start to make improvement.”