Warriors transform sloppy half into powerful finish
For two quarters, the Warriors looked at risk to lose their first home game of the season.
Until Stephen Curry took over the game 22 minutes into regulation, and Golden State (67-7) catapulted themselves over the Washington Wizards (36-38) 102-94 Tuesday night.
Curry scored eight points, grabbed a pair of rebounds and tacked on an assists during the final 90 seconds of the first half, a necessary overture that followed one of the sloppiest halves of the Warriors’ season.
Golden State scored 27 first quarter points, but turned the ball over four times and didn’t move the rock like head coach Steve Kerr normally wants.
The second quarter, though, was particularly awful.
Five turnovers, three coming on bad passes via center Andrew Bogut. One of which sailed out of bounds.
A total lack of post defense compounded the problems, with 10 Washington points over four minutes in the period, all shots made near the basket.
The stretch, which lasted nearly four minutes in the middle of the frame, came with Golden State’s reserve unit on the court, but the Wizards’ confidence took over while Curry and company checked in.
“I told the team let’s go on a 12-0 run to end this thing,” Kerr joked before summarizing the end of the first half:
“We were kind of stuck in mud there for awhile. We haven’t been able to get small lineup very often because of the injuries. Tonight without Andre (Iguodala) and Brandon Rush, so our stable of wings is down quite of bit, so it’s hard to get to that lineup. But we went to that lineup to try and create some energy. And those guys did a great job, they scrambled defensively and forced a couple turnovers, and then Steph got going too. I thought that was the key surge of the game.”
The Warriors’ bench was scoring, at least, and the starters were not. That’s when Curry, coming off of a time out, made a decision.
Curry went at it again, but was jacked by Porter Jr., who couldn’t hit his stroke on a short jumper. Curry grabbed the board, the fire still red hot despite his mistake, and heaved to across the court to Shaun Livingston, who introduced ball to hoop.
The half ended after Curry hit a three with 27 seconds left, capping a 12-0 Golden State run that made the packed house forget about how miserable the previous eight minutes were.
Curry explained some of the differences between the Tuesday night and when the Warriors faced the Wizards earlier in the year — when Curry hit 51 points and the dubs won in a landslide:
“Every game is usually going to take on a different feel. They made some adjustments, they guarded our pick and roll differently. They really kind of did what other teams have been doing, trying to take away our three point shot, and just living with twos. We missed a lot of them early in the game, so it could have been a different story earlier. They played hard there, they’re obviously playing for a playoff spot. It was just kind of an up and down game.”
Golden State carried the momentum all the way to the finish, though the Wizards kept it interesting during waning minutes of the night.
“He’s done that all season. We know that he’s capable of that, and when other teams go on a run throughout the game, we end the run. So we don’t get down, we don’t get discouraged, we know we have players who can get hot in a hurry. So it’s about composure, getting ourselves under control.”
“We guarded the three point line real well, we challenged all those three point attempts. We did have some breakdowns that were sort of head-scratchers. So we can still get better. But overall, the intensity and energy was pretty good, considering this is game 74.”
Curry scored 26 points on the evening, adding seven assists and seven rebounds, while Klay Thompson knocked in 18 points while grabbing three boards.
The win is Golden State’s 67th of the season — matching their 2014-15 win total — with nine games remaining. Kerr said he is shocked that his crew has won so many, even with the squad he has:
“In fact I thought we would get better but maybe our record would get a little worse. So this is a little surprising to be where we are record-wise. But, again, our guys have maintained really good focus and energy all year. Had a lot of people contribute, it’s awesome. Their effort night in and night out. You couldn’t ask for anything more.”
The Warriors travel to Utah in the morning, and will take on the Jazz Wednesday night — a team fighting hard to stay within reach of a the sixth seed in the Western Conference.
Brandon Rush’s status for the game is murky at best, and the possibility of rest for any wing will hinge on his availability. Kerr wants to give his team as much rest as reasonably possible heading down the final two weeks of the regular season.
Livingston received a night off on Sunday, but Kerr has echoed that the level of difficulty in resting players is increasingly difficult given the inadequate medical state of the roster.
Andre Iguodala’s return at least week away, according to a Tweet from Yahoo Sports’ Mark Spears, while reality may keeping the key Warriors’ reserve out for most of the remaining regular season.
Warriors forward Andre Iguodala (ankle) is out and will be re-evaluated in two weeks.
— Marc J. Spears (@MarcJSpearsESPN) March 13, 2016
The Warriors will return home from Utah for a four-game stretch that could end in tying the all time record for regular season wins, set by the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls. And Steve Kerr.