OAKLAND -- Building a contender is about talent and wisdom and application and, lastly, breakthroughs, of which the Warriors this season have achieved several. They confront another opportunity Friday night at Oracle Arena.
They go noses to navels with the marvelously metronomic San Antonio Spurs.
The Spurs have consistently been an NBA power since 1997, but they have basically owned the Warriors. The numbers are ghastly: The Warriors are 7-49 against San Antonio since '97 and 0-16 against them since a nine-point victory in Oakland in 2008.
This servile role has endured through nine Warriors coaches and roughly 100 players, from Brian Shaw and Muggsy Bogues to rookies Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli.
Despite the strides the Warriors have made in 2012-13, victories large and small, the San Antonio barrier still exists. It is the tallest psychological wall before them, even if coach Mark Jackson declines to concede as much.
Asked on Thursday about what it would mean to beat the Spurs at this point of the season, Jackson immediately flicked away any notion of a benchmark.
"It will be us beating a very good team,'' he said. "But we've done that before.''
Jackson wanted to make another point. He wanted to be clear that his team is not the one which has been abused all these years.
"It's not my history, and it's not this team's history,'' he said. "Truth be told, a lot of teams have that body of work when
"It's just a game (Friday) with two teams enjoying good success. And it would be a great opportunity for us to take care of home. That's all it means.''
Well, yes. The Spurs have punished many teams while making 15 consecutive playoff appearances and winning four championships with coach Gregg Popovich and power forward Tim Duncan establishing first-ballot Hall of Fame credentials.
But no, insofar as team histories don't discriminate. The Warriors were no less the Warriors then than they are now. And Jackson's Warriors are 0 for 4 against the Spurs.
"We're not looking into what has taken place the last 15 years,'' Jackson said. "We know that they've played well against us the last year and a half. That's our history. The rest of that is somebody else's.''
Jackson was responding as he should. He's a coach who is fully aware of a sensitive storyline and is trying to massage it away. He realizes the potential psychological consequences and chooses to deny them. It's an attempt to shield his team from the additional pressure of believing this game somehow has greater value than others.
And he's right to believe a loss to the Spurs would not be particularly painful, much less a mortal wound -- San Antonio owns the best record in the league, as it often does.
But the coach and his team also know this is a game any franchise in position for a playoff berth should win. And a game a team craving league-wide respect needs to win.
The relatively elderly Spurs will be about as vulnerable as they've ever been. Duncan is 36, Manu Ginobili 35. Tony Parker is in his 12th season, Boris Diaw his 10th. They've been on the road for three weeks. This will be San Antonio's eighth consecutive road game, and it comes one night after a game in Los Angeles against the Clippers.
The Warriors, by contrast, should be coming together for a postseason run. The six-game losing streak is behind them and they themselves could hardly have assembled a more favorable schedule over the final six weeks.
Until they muscle up and get that San Antonio boot off their collective neck, the Warriors will always know, and not like, where they stand. They don't have to own anybody, but they must be able to compete with everybody. Above all, they can't allow themselves to be owned.
No matter how Jackson views it, another loss to the Spurs would leave a psychological bruise on a team seeking every reason to keep believing in itself. A win could only energize a team that already has made several breakthroughs.
One, it has an effective big man. Andrew Bogut at 70 percent is better than any big it has had since young Andris Biedrins appeared on the verge of becoming a solid pro.
Two, the Warriors have two crackerjack pros on the bench. Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry are important factors at both ends of the court and in the locker room.
And, three, the Warriors came out of the All-Star break actually holding a playoff spot. This is a position with which they are profoundly unfamiliar. To go anywhere, they'll have to get used to it.
So awaits the chance for a fourth breakthrough. It's time the Warriors get some breathing room for their noses.