Warriors grind out win over last-place 76ers

Carl Landry shined in his return to Oakland, but the rest of his 76ers teammates lagged behind.

The former Warrior, a large part of Golden State’s resurgence three seasons ago, scored 22 of last-place Philadelphia’s total in a 117-105 loss to the Warriors.

The Warriors (66-7) let Philadelphia (9-65) get going early, with a score that displayed that the reigning champions still get apathetic when facing well-inferior teams.

This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the Warriors locker room at Oracle Arena.

Three minutes into the second quarter, the Warriors let the nine-win 76ers — down three of the top draft prospects over the last few years — tie the score.

It wasn’t as if Philadelphia was playing well, either, but save for Draymond Green, the Warriors starting five were on the wrong side of the plus-minus stat.

Marreese Speights was Golden State’s best player to that point, though the Dubs finally woke up after the knotted score at 40-40.

It started with a Brandon Rush pull-up jumper — with Speights on the assist. Then Speights grabbed the rock following a miss by Kendall Marshall.

Speights scored Golden State’s next five points, and later connected from distance, and marking the end of a 13-0 Warriors run that morphed a lackadaisical effort into a 16-point halftime lead at 77-51.

Mo Buckets — as fans affectionately call Speights — has had some harrowing games at home against Philadelphia, who drafted the big man 16th overall in 2008.

32 points in February of 2014, adding eight boards and three blocks. 23 points with four blocks and four rebounds during the following season. And now, Speights says, there’s a trend:

“I don’t know. The ball just goes in every time we play them at home. So it could be that, it could be other things.”

Once Speights was benched with a few minutes left in the half, the crowd voiced displeasure with a various number of clear noises. Head coach Steve Kerr joked that Speights has a shelf life, that he needs to be rested before his expiration date.

Kerr continued:

“I thought Mo was terrific. He’s been fantastic over the last month or so. And I thought, really, the key stretch in this game was in the second quarter when that unit we had out there — Ian (Clark), and Brandon Rush, and Mo, Harrison was out there as well, and (Leandro) Barbosa –they really made a good push and opened up the game. And gave us that lead that we were comfortable with the rest of the game.”

Later in the evening, Klay Thompson would continue a hot stretch that came after Speights’ run. Thompson knocked down two threes during the first half, but added five more in the second. He finished the night with 40 points, going 7-for-14 beyond the arc, and 15-for-27 from the field.

Green too thrived off the 76ers, missing two top-three draft picks from 2014 and 2015 Jahlil Okafor and Joel Embiid, plus Nerlens Noel, a lottery selection who is out with a right knee contusion.

The steady stat line from Green turned into a triple-double early in the fourth quarter, and surged during a third quarter that included five boards and four assists.

Speights finished with 17 points, seven boards and three assists; Stephen Curry knocked in 20 points, with eight assists and three rebounds.

Golden State hosts the Wizards Tuesday, before hitting the road for a game at Utah Wednesday and returning home Friday to face the Celtics.

Marathon to 73 wins

Kerr shed some real light on his plans for the rest of the season — headlined with a quote, originally told by NBA great and father of assistant coach Luke Walton, Bill Walton:

“Bill Walton was talking about Luke, and how lucky Luke was to be here. And if he goes somewhere else, he’s going to lose that magic. And Bill’s exactly right. That magic doesn’t last long. We’ve got something special here, and we’re well aware of it. As a staff, we know how lucky we are to coach this team, and we try to remind the team how lucky they are to have each other.”

Kerr didn’t say anything that basketball aficionados don’t already know, but it was a semi-emotional prelude to what he said next — after being asked about how realistic 73 wins are, and how much the team is thinking about it:

“We’ve already been thinking that way. I didn’t think much about it until last week. And now obviously we’re right there and we have a chance to do it. As I said, the tricky part it that we’re down several players with injuries. And we’re playing game after game. Light practice tomorrow, and another back-to-back. I want to try to give guys rest and not over-do it. But it’s tough to do that when you only have 11 healthy bodies.”

Part of the importance to Kerr’s comments were that guard Shaun Livingston sat Sunday night, not because of injury, for rest.

Golden State’s back-to-back comes Tuesday and Wednesday, the latter game on the road against the Jazz. A team that loses, on paper, if either Thompson, Curry or Green are resting as well.

All three have been adamant that they don’t really want rest. But a coach is a coach. And even if Kerr has to remove the uniform of a player who refuses rest, he can do that.

Whether that happens or not — it’s not always as simple as it may sound, and hasn’t really happened yet this season — remains to be seen. But Kerr is managing a basketball oddity, which he’s lucky enough to have, but heavy is the crown.

And Kerr doesn’t want to anger the basketball gods.


Jason Leskiw is SFBay’s Golden State Warriors beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @LeskiwSFBay on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of the Warriors.