Having beaten the Spurs once and nearly twice in San Antonio, the Warriors on Friday return to the comforts of Oracle Arena with a lot more than a split of the first two games of this Western Conference semifinal series.

They come home believing they can win this series. And maybe even should.

There is a bounce in their steps, an edge to their words. Their jaws jut ever so slightly, expressing a calm but defiant swagger. To examine both teams after two games is to understand why the Warriors are such a confident bunch.

The Warriors are shooting better and rebounding better and playing wicked defense. They're quicker and livelier, always a lethal combination but particularly so when navigating the postseason grind.

Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry (30) reacts during the second half of Game 2 in their Western Conference semifinal NBA basketball playoff series
Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry (30) reacts during the second half of Game 2 in their Western Conference semifinal NBA basketball playoff series against the San Antonio Spurs on May 8, 2013, in San Antonio. (Darren Abate/AP)

The younger Warriors clearly are a more explosive team than San Antonio, after being the smarter, steadier team in their first-round series win over Denver. Strange as it may seem, they look to be more talented than the Spurs.

There is an anxiety pervading Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and his roster. This is a proud veteran bunch, with a championship pedigree and multiple members headed for the Hall of Fame. But their stars are aging and they know it, which helps explain the doubt.

"They played much better than us and miracles don't happen that often," 35-year-old swingman Manu Ginobili said after Game 2 on Wednesday. "We didn't deserve Game 1, either, so we really have to do a better job (in Oakland) because we don't have a chance if we play like this."

Outrebounded and outshot by the Warriors in Game 1, the Spurs somehow stole it -- much as the Nuggets swiped Game 1 in the first round. Consider this, though: against two teams with superior regular-season records, the Warriors have lost three games this postseason and only once -- Game 5 in Denver -- were they appreciably inferior.

What they have done is respond to every playoff loss with an impressive performance.

"The good thing is we're a young team," center Andrew Bogut said. "We have a short memory. Whenever we hit a rut, we always bounce back."

They've been doing that all season -- after losing sixth man Brandon Rush in November, despite Bogut missing the majority of the regular season and now with all-star forward David Lee sidelined with a torn hip flexor sustained in Game 1 at Denver two weeks ago.

Recovery is becoming a defining characteristic of these Warriors.

But it's more than that. They're maturing at an incredible pace and they're doing it minute after minute under the harshest of lights. They've so grown into the role of contender it looks as if they have settled in and gotten comfortable with big moments.

Does it make sense that the team that finished 17-18 over its final 35 regular season games is peaking when the stakes are highest?

Guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are playing with the self-assurance of 10-year postseason veterans. The rookies -- Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green and Festus Ezeli -- have delivered in times of need. Bogut has been a force in the middle.

"We have a number of guys who can definitely contribute in pressure situations," reserve guard Jarrett Jack said. "Steph has been unbelievable all season long and has been even better in the playoffs. Klay is kid who is fearless and not scared of the moment. HB has been playing beyond his years. Draymond is stepping into it full force."

Golden State Warriors’ Klay Thompson (11) celebrates a basket against the San Antonio Spurs during the first half in Game 2 of their Western
Golden State Warriors' Klay Thompson (11) celebrates a basket against the San Antonio Spurs during the first half in Game 2 of their Western Conference semifinal NBA basketball playoff series, Wednesday, May 8, 2013, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Understand, this series is not close to being over. The Spurs will make adjustments. That's typical in May, and nobody in recent years has been better at it than Popovich.

But how does he solve the riddle of an offense with two guards capable of shooting his club out of its own building? How do the Spurs puncture the collective ego of a team that has grown a thick outer shell of toughness and resiliency?

The Warriors also are making adjustments, and they're buying into themselves and their coach. They were disappointed Jackson wasn't named Coach of the Year, irritated that he finished seventh in the voting.

"I know coach (George) Karl won the Coach of the Year award, and congratulations to him," Jack said, "but I thoroughly believe in my heart that we have the coach of the year every time we step between the lines."

Jackson's bold talk has not wavered. He said two weeks ago that his is the greatest shooting backcourt in the history of the game, and now he dares you to challenge that.

It's tough to do right now when you look at these Warriors. It's as if the faces throughout the locker room spell out a familiar two-word phrase: We Believe.

Contact Monte Poole at mpoole@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/1montepoole.