OAKLAND, Calif. — As the Golden State Warriors remained at the top of the NBA standings this season, they headed south in another area: defense.
And even with his team on the verge of tying the franchise record for most wins in a season Tuesday night, Warriors coach Steve Kerr found time before the game to lecture his guys on the importance of excelling at both ends of the court at this time of year.
Turns out the Warriors are good listeners, too.
Golden State finally got its defense in high gear Tuesday night en route to its 54th consecutive home-court win, a 102-94 victory over the Washington Wizards, an Eastern Conference playoff contender.
Washington posted its fourth-lowest point total in two months.
“I thought our defense was pretty solid,” Kerr, playing hard to please, said afterward. “We guarded the 3-point line really well. We had some breakdowns that were sort of head-scratchers, but overall the intensity and the energy was really good considering it was Game 74.”
The Warriors entered the game having held just four of their previous 18 opponents under 100 points. It was a big reason why they sank to 20th in the league in points allowed (104.3), after having held opponents, on average, to double figures (99.9) last season.
“We’re missing Andre (Iguodala) and Festus (Ezeli), who provide big defensive boosts for us,” reserve guard Shaun Livingston said of the injured Warriors backups. “But I think (our defense will get better) going into the playoffs.”
The Warriors limited the Wizards to one field goal over a 9-minute, 58-second stretch bridging the third and fourth quarters in building an insurmountable lead. The result was Golden State’s franchise-record-tying 67th win of the season.
“I thought they could get better, but the record could be a little worse,” Kerr said of the season following Golden State’s first championship in 40 years. “So this is surprising.”
Stephen Curry led four Warriors starters in double figures with 26 points as Golden State (67-7) pulled five games ahead of the San Antonio Spurs in the race for top seeding in the Western Conference playoffs.
The win was the Warriors’ 10th in their past 11 meetings with the Wizards, who fell into 10th place in the Eastern playoff chase. Washington (36-38) sits three games behind the Indiana Pacers (39-35), who currently reside in the eighth and final postseason slot.
The Warriors closed the first half on a 12-0 run to take a three-point halftime lead, and they were on top just 72-70 after Wizards forward Markieff Morris buried a 3-pointer with 2:20 remaining in the third period.
However, Washington made only one more field goal — a layup by Nene — in nearly the next 10 minutes, during which time the Warriors rolled up a 95-76 advantage with under 5:00 remaining in the game.
A fastbreak layup by backup Jared Dudley with 4:22 to go ended a Wizards drought that saw them miss 12 of 13 shots.
“We got to score against this team, no matter how good defense you play, because they’re going to continue to come at you,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. “Can’t fault our effort … but against a team like this that’s fighting for history, 12-0 to end the half when you’re up nine hurts.”
While the Wizards couldn’t buy a hoop, the Warriors went up 79-72 on a 3-pointer by Draymond Green with 6.8 seconds remaining in the third period, then eased away in the fourth quarter thanks in part to Curry’s sixth 3-pointer of the game, one he banked in from straight away with 6:07 to go.
Curry, who had 51 points when the Warriors won 134-121 at Washington earlier this season, finished 9-for-20 from the field and 6-for-8 on 3-pointers. He also found time for seven rebounds, seven assists and season-high five steals.
Green contributed 15 points, a game-high 16 rebounds and nine assists to the win, and Klay Thompson, the reigning Western Conference Player of the Week, added 16 points.
Thompson shot just 2-for-8 from 3-point range, but the two successes brought his total for the month of March to 76, breaking the NBA record of 75 for the month set last year by Curry.
Harrison Barnes was a fourth Warriors starter in double figures with 14 points to go with nine rebounds. Golden State held a 54-48 advantage on the boards.
Bradley Beal had 17 points to lead Washington, which was playing for the second time on a five-game Western swing and lost for just the third time in its past nine games.
Morris (15), Otto Porter Jr. (11) and Nene (10) also scored in double figures for the Wizards, but star point guard John Wall was limited to eight points, ending his streak of consecutive games in double figures at 31.
Wall, who led Washington with 11 assists, recorded double-doubles in his previous nine games. He burned the Warriors for 41 points in the earlier meeting this season.
“Brad had a good first half. I didn’t play well offensively,” Wall said. “When we both don’t play well, it’s kind of hard for us to get things going.”
Beal (1-for-6) and Wall (0-for-3) struggled from 3-point range, and the Wizards as a team went just 5-for-23 (21.7 percent). The Warriors hit 11 of 25 long-range shots (44 percent).
Marcin Gortat was Washington’s top rebounder with 11.
After trailing by as many as eight in the first quarter, the Wizards shockingly spurted into a 46-37 lead late in the second period.
Wall had a hand in all four field goals in a 9-0 run that produced the nine-point lead, hitting a pair of shots and assisting hoops by Beal (a 3-pointer) and Gortat.
But just when it appeared the Warriors would be saddled with a rare halftime deficit at home, they countered with a flurry of their own, scoring the final 12 points of the second period.
Curry led the charge, burying two 3-pointers and a layup before assisting on a Livingston dunk in a 12-0 spree that exhausted the final 2:24 of the half and produced a 49-46 halftime advantage.
NOTES: The Warriors and Chicago Bulls (1995-96, 1996-97) are the only teams in NBA history to record consecutive 67-win seasons. … The Warriors completed a 10-0 sweep of the five Southeast Division teams. … All 16 of Warriors PF Draymond Green’s rebounds came on the defensive end. … Golden State and Washington both play on the road Wednesday night. The Wizards are at Sacramento, and the Warriors travel to Utah. … For the Warriors, the home-and-road back-to-back will be just their fourth of the season. They won on the second night in the first three. … Wizards SF Markieff Morris (calf) was cleared to play after participating in pregame warmups, and he scored 15 points. He sat out Sunday’s win over the Los Angeles Lakers after straining the calf early in Friday’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves.