ORACLE ARENA — With their starting bigs out, the Warriors put their faith in reserves Jermaine O’Neal and Draymond Green.
The reserves rose to the challenge as the leading scorers in the Warriors 93-86 victory over the Brooklyn Nets for their third consecutive win.
O’Neal finished with a game-high, season-high 23 points and 13 rebounds followed by Green with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
For the second straight game O’Neal has been crucial during crunch time for the Warriors, and continues to be a vocal leader in the locker room.
Warriors coach Mark Jackson reiterated what he said after the game against Houston and expressed his respect for O’Neal:
“For a guy, at this stage of his career, to be ready to respond when called upon, is a true testament to who he is as a basketball player and what type of character he has as a human being.”
O’Neal put the Warriors on top 88-86 with critical foul shots before coach Jackson brought in Harrison Barnes for Curry with 1:02 left, hoping for a defensive stop:
“Deron Williams is a big-time player that has great size and strength and I wanted to put a bigger guy on him.”
Just as planned the Warriors forced a turnover when Joe Johnson’s pass went out of bounds. Jackson quickly subbed Curry back in and he banked in a three to extend the lead.
The Nets’ final shots came up empty and, with two more free throws from Green, the Warriors walked away with a much-needed win heading into a six-game road trip.
O’Neal made a point to say how important the road trip would be for the Warriors moving forward. He told SFBay that the Warriors are battling for a better seed as the playoffs approach:
“This is important. We look around and every team is getting and the Western Conference is a monster … We’re not trying to hold on to the seventh seed, we’re trying to move up.”
Golden State sprung out an 11-2 start with contributions from O’Neal and Green starting in place of Andrew Bogut and David Lee.
But Brooklyn chipped away before Paul Pierce tied the game at the free throw line 38-38 with 6:02 left in the first half.
Early foul trouble for the Warriors — including four first-half fouls on Harrison Barnes — allowed the Nets to make their way to the charity stripe often, a place where they thrive as a team.
A late second-quarter three from Stephen Curry sent the Warriors into the second half with a 49-46 lead.
O’Neal continued to come up big helping Golden State extend its lead by as many as 11, but the Nets crawled back with 14-third quarter points from guard Deron Williams.
With 6:38 left to play, Andre Iguodala stole the ball on a Brooklyn defensive rebound before Steve Blake found a cutting O’Neal who threw down a crowd pleasing dunk for a 78-72 lead.
On a fast break, with a chance for an easy bucket, Klay Thompson send a wild pass down court that flew past a sprinting Curry. On the following possession, Joe Johnson tied the game on a step-back jumper with just over two minutes remaining.
O’Neal put the Warriors on top at with foul shots with 1:02 left. Warriors head coach Mark Jackson then subbed in Barnes for Curry, with the Warriors forcing a turnover and gaining the upper hand.
Green said the Warriors talked about their defense coming out of the All-Star break and have come together the last three games making sure they defend at a high level:
“The shots aren’t going to fall every night … Just give yourself a chance on the defensive end and the offense will come, and it happened for us tonight.”
The Warriors, now 34-22 overall, head out on a six-game East Coast road trip where they will face Detroit, Chicago, New York, Toronto, Indiana and Boston.
Golden State is now a season-high 12 games over .500. … Jermaine O’Neal made his sixth start of the season, finishing with season-highs in points and rebounds while shooting 10-of 13 fror his first double-double and 20-point/10-rebound game with the Warriors. … Draymond Green started in place of David Lee (stomach flu), his fifth start of the season, to post a career-high 18 points to go with 10 rebounds and three steels in 38 minutes for his second career double-double. … Andrew Bogut (left shoulder inflammation) missed his seventh straight game.