DENVER • It has been a season riddled with inconsistency and punctuated by injuries but on Tuesday, the Golden State Warriors showed why they remain the favourites for the hat-trick of titles because of their propensity to put on a "fireworks show".
The Denver Nuggets were top of the Western Conference and riding the crest of a 12-game winning streak at home.
But in a terrifying display of power and panache, Golden State's 142-111 victory over the Nuggets, their fifth straight in the National Basketball Association, demonstrated that the kinks had been ironed out and they were now "playing with purpose".
Warriors coach Steve Kerr purred over his team's "beautiful, beautiful basketball" as they exploded with 51 points in the first quarter. It was the first time a team scored 50 points in the opening period since Nov 10, 1990, when the Phoenix Suns totalled 50 against the same opponents.
It was also only the sixth time in league history a team had notched over 50 points in the first 12 minutes, but the Warriors did not stop there as they went on to set another record - the first to score over 140 points while nailing 10 or fewer free throws.
It was not like the Nuggets capitulated, with Malik Beasley contributing 22 points to lead four of his teammates in double figures.
Their coach Michael Malone was effusive in his praise, admitting post-game that Kerr's players had "sent a message" at the Pepsi Centre as they overtook his team at the top of the West.
After Denver (29-14) fell 1/2 game behind Golden State (30-14), Malone said: "Give them credit. They came in here and showed why they're one of the best teams in the world and they've won multiple world championships for a reason."
Kerr agreed with his counterpart, admitting "that was as good as it gets". He told reporters after Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson led all scorers to finish the night with 31 points apiece: "I liked the way our guys moved the ball.
"A lot of shot fakes, playing with a simple style of execution but aggressive at the same time. Finding that balance is always what we're looking for."
He revealed the Warriors had been stung by a 100-98 loss on their last road trip to Denver in October and were fired up, adding: "I figured our guys would be excited to play. They came in focused and aggressive."
Social media was equally abuzz with ESPN personality Skip Bayless tweeting "better hurry back, LeBron" - in reference to Los Angeles Lakers star James, whose team went 4-7 in his 11-game absence with a groin injury.
The Warriors can only get better. Four-time All Star DeMarcus Cousins is set to make his long-awaited debut against the Los Angeles Clippers tomorrow after a year out with an Achilles heel injury.