As victory-challenged as the Warriors have been in recent weeks, the one thing you can say about them is they haven't rolled over on an essentially meaningless final month of the season.
The club has continued to stay focused and feisty despite its obvious deficiencies in experience and health, and Saturday the Warriors finally got rewarded for their dogged persistence -- an efficient, well-balanced 112-97 victory over the Denver Nuggets at Oracle Arena.
It was just Golden State's second win in nine games but one that might signal a positive kick to an otherwise gloomy finish line.
"I've been saying it, we're going to continue to play hard to the final game," said forward David Lee, who failed to score 20 points for the first time in eight games but didn't care one bit. "We've got a team that gets along well, a team that has great chemistry, and we're going to continue to scrap. We're undermanned right now, but we love going out there and competing."
Lee had 17 points to go along with nine rebounds, which was a bit of a comedown for him the way he's been playing of late. Entering Saturday, he was averaging 26.3 points, 8.7 rebounds and 4.3 assists over the past seven games.
But Lee didn't need to come up so big because he got loads of help on this night. Six other Warriors scored in double figures, led by Brandon Rush's 20 off the bench.
Not much went wrong against a Nuggets team that's trying to hold on to a playoff berth. The Warriors already stunned the Nuggets in Denver earlier this season, so they're really starting to become a pain to George Karl's club.
"It's very satisfying knowing that (Denver) came in with something to play for, with payback on their mind, and we found a way to put together 48 minutes of basketball," Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. "Just a great team effort, a total team effort."
Jackson gave 10 players double-digit minutes, and each contributed, even much-maligned Andris Biedrins, who had six rebounds, two blocks and a couple of buckets. Rookie Jeremy Tyler narrowly missed his first NBA double-double with eight points and 10 rebounds.
The Warriors led almost from start to finish. They even responded when Denver cut a 17-point third-quarter lead to five early in the fourth quarter. Lee and rookie Klay Thompson hit baskets to put the lead back up to double digits, then Rush delivering the dagger with 3-point shots on back-to-back possessions with just under five minutes to play.
The performance might not mean much in the standings, but Lee thinks it's vitally important in the bigger picture of the future.
"You just don't walk in next year with a healthy Steph (Curry) and a healthy Andrew Bogut to winning basketball," he said. "It starts with an attitude right now of continuing to compete to the end of the season and have our coaching staff knowing who they can rely on going into next year."
Lee has been a leader on that front even as the Warriors have struggled ever since Curry went down and Monta Ellis and Epke Udoh were traded for an injured Bogut.
Lee's play might be going unnoticed by the outside world, but it hasn't escaped the attention of Jackson.
"He's paid a lot of money to play the game of basketball, but I've played this game and I've covered this game, and when you're playing for what seems to be nothing, some guys don't bring it," Jackson said. "So I don't take for granted having a star player finishing the right way, sending a message."