LOS ANGELES - For much of the regular season, the Warriors have had an internal battle with complacency as they strive for their third straight NBA title.
Routine winning streaks would be followed by curious loses on their home floor, causing worry among many observers if the Golden Dynasty was showing signs of rust.
Content reered its ugly head Monday night when the champs squared the biggest postseason lead in NBA history. On Thursday, they tore apart the Clippers, winning Game 3 132-105, once again with a goal of finding the consistent championship energy that's eluded them.
"High energy, high focus," Warriors guard Stephen Curry said. "Tried to set the tone early in the first six minutes."
Golden State - like they've done each game this series - got out to a big early lead, going up 41-24 by the end of the first quarter. Kevin Durant, who had more turnovers than shot attempts in Game 2, scored 38 points, adding seven assists and four rebounds. As Durant flexed his powers, the Warriors locked down defensively, holding the Clippers to just 37.2 percent from the field and 21.9 percent from 3-point range.
More importantly - after giving the ball away a combined 33 times through the first two games of the series - Golden State had just 12 turnovers Thursday evening.
"Just smart basketball." Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "Simple plays. No halfcourt lobs. No wild passes. It was just taking what the defense gave us, hitting singles, just continuing to play."
This season, the Warriors haven't had a problem flexing their champion-level ability - however, sustaining the necessary energy proved to be a problem. Following a 10-1 start, the Warriors finished the month of November 7-7 as internal strife threatened to end the season before it began. Following the All-Star break, embarrassing home losses to the Boston and lottery-bound Phoenix Suns left many curious.
"The reality of it is, human nature, sometimes just happens, regardless of how much you fight against it," Warriors forward Draymond Green said. "It's never because you don't want to be there. Sometimes during the regular season, I think every team goes where you just don't want to be there."
Golden State's latest sleep waling act came in the second half of Game 2, when the Warriors squandered a 31-point lead, letting the Clippers pull off the biggest comeback in NBA history on their home floor. The loss, in which the Warriors were outscored 85-38 shocked most around the NBA world and gave the latest example of how complacency has been the team's best opponent all year long.
"I think everybody in the arena kind of relaxed just a split second. I just think everybody felt like we had that game in hand because we had a 30 point lead," Durant said. "I mean that hasn't happened in 30 years so its kind of natural for anybody to relax, even at home. But the players can't do that and I think that was a small lesson that we can learn from but our focus has been on point since late March, with the exception of like six minutes last game."
On Thursday, the Warriors again found themselves up 31 points midway through the third quarter, roughly the same time of the game they held advantage two days before. The coincidence prompted assistant coach Jarron Collins to tell Kerr, "it's 31" during the timeout. Luckily for the Warriors, deja vu was not in store for the champs as they try to find the championship focus that's frequently escaped them this season.
"We just keep challenging the guys, reminding of what's at stake. Sunday is the next one," Kerr said. "We can take control of the series if we can get that one. If we don't, we're in a tough spot."
"We just got to lock in and play the next one. But I liked our approach tonight," Kerr added. "I like our chances."