Small Warriors roar back to catch Memphis

ORACLE ARENA — Five days off meant the Warriors would enjoy a quiet break and come back healthy, ready to finish out the season. Right?

Not exactly.

The break proved to be anything but quiet and the Warriors went into Friday’s contest against Memphis sans David Lee (strained right hamstring).

Further diminishing Golden State’s front court, a knee from Marc Gasol knocked out Andrew Bogut for the rest of the night with a pelvic contusion, just four minutes into play.

With the standings in the West so tight, both Golden State (6th seed) and Memphis (7th seed) were in a must-win position, but the Warriors prevailed 100-93.

Warriors coach Mark Jackson said that stepping up to the challenge and overcoming a trap is who the Warriors are:

“This is who this team is. We were shorthanded with tailor made excuses with guys being hurt and they just battled …They understand that the lights are bright and the pressure is on and we embrace it.”

Reserve big Jermaine O’Neal hit a part of free throws with 2:04 left to play tying the game 93-93.  The Grizzlies failed to capitalize on the following possession, and, on the other end, Stephen Curry hit his fifth trey for a three-point advantage.

Memphis guard Mike Conley missed an equalizing jumper before Curry ran the ball through traffic for an underhanded bank shot that sent the sellout crowd into a frenzy as he capped off a game-high 33 point performance.

The Warriors are guilty of sulking when teams go on runs late in games but showed a vocal and excited temperament against Memphis.

Curry told SFBay the team has had multiple conversations about changing their body language in tough situations:

“We’ve talked about it all season but you’ve just got to make sure you implement the changes. They hit some tough shots and we’re trying to pound in the paint, a very physical game that wears on guys.  But as long as you keep a little pep in your step, you don’t send any signals that you’re done.”

As Lee sat in street clothes, Marreese Speights saw his first start as a Warrior. Speights finished with 15 points and eight rebounds to compliment a Curry performance meant for the post-season.

Jackson said that starting Speights was partly based on size but mostly just a feeling, and praised Speights for not holding a grudge based on his limited minutes this season:

“You’ve got a guy like Mo Speights that very easily could say ‘Forget you coach. Now you need me?’ He has been ready, prepared and waiting for this moment.  When the moment came, he answered the call.”

Memphis came out of halftime with a defensive peskiness that gave them a quick 66-58 lead. But Curry went on a 12-point tear, launching the Warriors to a three-point lead heading into the final frame.

A fourth-quarter offensive battle ensued with the score see-sawing and tying five times.  Conley (20 points) hit a three over the outstretched arms of Curry with just over five minutes left to play, and Zach Randolph (21 points) had an easy put-back that gave Memphis a 93-86 lead.

But the Warriors finished the night on a 14-0 run to seal the win.

Randolph said watching the lead dwindle was the most difficult and that Memphis wasn’t able to do anything on either end of the floor in the final minutes:

“It is really disappointing.  We were up like five with just a few minutes left in the game and we couldn’t execute or get stops.  It was very frustrating…We should have made adjustments.”

The Warriors, now 45-27 overall, finish off their five-game home stand against the Knicks Sunday.

Notes

Golden State is back to a season-high 18 games above .500. … The Warriors bench outscored Memphis’ 33-17, Golden State is now 18-6 when its reserves outscore the opposition’s bench. … When the Warriors score at least 100 points, they are 35-12 this season. … Stephen Curry led all scorers with 33 points, his 18th game with at least 30 points this season, hitting the go-ahead three-pointer for the 60th consecutive game (longest active streak in the NBA), hitting 5-of-8 from long distance. … Draymond Green led all reserves with 12 points and nine rebounds, Golden State is 7-1 this season when Green grabs at least nine boards. … David Lee missed his sixth game of the season, but the Warriors have managed a 5-1 record in the absence of their starting power forward.


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