Stretching their undefeated streak to 18, Golden State Saturday night dispatched their northern California rival Sacramento Kings 120-101.
A 30-29 Warriors lead after the first quarter ballooned to 10 at the half and 21 after three quarters. Stephen Curry led Golden State with a modest 19 points, while Draymond Green recorded his second-straight triple-double — the first Warrior since 1964 to accomplish the feat — and third of the season with 13 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists.
The absence of injured forward Harrison Barnes slowed the Warriors out of the blocks. On two separate back cuts, replacement Brandon Rush — who either lacked quickness or hands — turned what would have been emphatic dunks by Barnes into turnovers.
As stated by interim head coach Luke Walton, Barnes’ injury gave way to the team’s depth to take center stage in the 19-point victory:
“Everybody was great tonight. It was really a solid team effort. … It was nice, with this (15-day) road trip coming up, and not knowing how long we won’t have Harrison, to see those guys step up.”
At the midway point of the first quarter, Andre Iguodala was brought in to relieve Rush. “Iggy” finished the frame with a game-high plus-9 point differential, and the Warriors never relinquished the lead.
Behind the leadership of birthday boy Leandro Barbosa, the defense clamped down in the second, allowing only 17 in the period, including a two-minute scoreless stretch in which the lead grew from five to 11.
Maybe it was a case of heavy legs after a back-to-back, but the Kings seemed to give up on attacking the basket in the second quarter, and settled for jumpers – not the team’s strength. Gritty work on both ends in the second would afford the Warriors a lead the Sacramento would never threaten.
Further depth in all the right places, provided a huge boom in the third. Two points from their MVP, to go with his 17 first-quarter tallies, was supplanted by a Barnes-esque explosion from his replacement. Walton said:
“The guys loved it … He puts in a lot of time, and on most team he’d probably be getting some minutes. … Every time we’ve called on him this year … he’s played well.”
What the home bench loved so much was a Klay Thompson performance to the tune of 14 points, in eight minutes, on 5-for-7 shooting including 4-4 from beyond the arc. His shot was so hot that Walton called a play normally reserved for the likes of Thompson or Curry, and Rush was thrilled:
“It was a big surprise, in the huddle Luke said ‘lets stick with the hot hand’ and ran (elevator) for me and I knocked it down. I was side open.”
With his surge, Rush not only gave his team a massive 21-point advantage, he allowed Curry, Thompson and another birthday boy center Andrew Bogut to watch the entire fourth quarter, which Walton said is huge given the upcoming stretch of games.
Green, who was the only Warrior to eclipse the 30-minute mark (36), put the finishing touches on his second consecutive triple-double with a rebound in the closing minutes and matched Wilt Chamberlain in doing so:
“Its pretty cool, even to be named in the same category as Wilt … But its definitely something you can’t do by yourself, so I can’t take all the credit for it.”
The immediate willingness to shine the light on his teammates after an incredible personal accomplishment is further evidence of the reigning champs’ greatest strength — their unity and team attitude.
After proving themselves without the use of the small lineup they are lauded for, the Dubs look to keep the streak alive Monday in Utah against the Jazz to open a seven-game road trip, as they continue their quest for the NBA record 33-game win streak held by the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers.