Down just one, in the closing seconds of the first half, Stephen Curry drove the lane looking for an easy go-ahead bucket.
He was unable to finish over the duo of Dennis Schroder and Paul Millsap, the latter of whom sent Kent Bazemore running right past Draymond Green for an easy lay-in extending the lead as the buzzer sounded. A 10-second stretch that epitomized the first half of the Warriors 105-100 win over the Atlanta Hawks.
In a fitting touch of a favor returned, exactly 12 minutes elapsed before Ian Clark buried a three-ball as the clock hit zeroes on the third quarter pulling his team to within one point.
Riding a raucous Oracle Arena crowd, and the momentum supplied by Clark’s big shot, Golden State snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, claiming a 105-100 win over Atlanta Hawks (10-8) — their 12th in a row — Monday night.
Curry, who finished with 25 points, matching Kevin Durant for a game-high, spoke to importance of Clark’s shot:
“That shot was huge. To pull within one, and from there we got momentum. … When you can end either a quarter of half with a bucket it usually transfers over to the next period, and it did for us.”
Long before Clark’s seizing of “Big Mo,'” the offense struggled to gather any momentum in the first half. And the defense offered little support, moving just a half-step slow.
Atlanta experienced similar tribulations. The difference was the Hawks’ ability to maintain possession of the ball, and capitalize on Golden State’s inability to do so. The home team relinquished 18 points off of 11 turnovers prior to the break, leading to a three-point half-time deficit.
Alas, it takes four quarters to win a basketball game. And, in the second half, Golden State shut off the faucet of free points, allowing just one point on four turnovers after halftime.
Had coach Steve Kerr said that overall effort wasn’t a “great performance,” adding that effort after the break was the key:
“It was a good effort after that uneven effort — the first half was rough. The second half was a real grind, but I like the fact that we really fought and competed.”
Through 35 minutes of game action, it didn’t look to be the Warriors’ night. Every time they worked to within a single possession, they were stymied by a Hawks run.
A shot clock violation with 7:13 remaining in the third gave the Warriors a chance to tie, or take the lead, but a 1-for-2 trip to the free throw line for Durant left Atlanta ahead by a single point — 62-61. After the Hawks scored four of the next five points, Curry dropped a three-pointer. But Mike Muscala answered with one of his own.
Finally, on Clark’s three-ball, and the first eight points of the fourth period, the Warriors harnessed just enough energy to create some wiggle room between themselves and the team with the Eastern Conference’s fifth-best record.
Durant,who added to his 25 points with two blocks and a team-high 14 rebounds, said:
“That was huge for us. We were bogged down a little bit. We were getting a lot of good shots, we weren’t making them and they were scoring. We got a stop there, ran out, Ian hit a huge shot, and I think that kind of woke us up a bit and got the crowd going. (We) built a little lead, and defensively we kind of turned up the pressure.”
The Hawks continued to scrap. Led by Schroder’s 24 points and double-doubles from Millsap (14 points and 14 rebounds) and Dwight Howard (14 points and 16 rebounds), Atlanta never let the Warriors get out of reach. But the back-to-back Western Conference Champions proved to be the superior counter-puncher. For every straight landed by Atlanta, Durant and company responded with a hay-maker.
Andre Iguodala, who finished with a game-best plus-18 point differential, said that he expects every team to go down taking its biggest swings:
“Atlanta is a very capable team. They haven’t been playing too well lately, but we knew they would come out and try to hit us with a good punch.”
Finally, the visitors’ collective knees buckled on a knock-out blow delivered in the form of a pair of Green blocks, each of which would bound off of the offensive player giving possession to the passionate power forward, the second coming with 15 seconds on the clock.
The back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year runner-up finished with four blocks. As he said, however, those like the final two carry immeasurable meaning:
“I love those, because it’s like a double-slap in the face. … When you get the shot blocked and it goes off you and out of bounds, it’s pretty funny, so I like those.”
After playing a game-high 39 minutes just three nights removed from an ankle injury, and experiencing some discomfort throughout the night, Green will get three days off before hosting the Houston Rockets in a Thursday night tilt.
With 25, 25 and 20 points respectively, Curry, Durant and Klay Thompson each scored 20 more points for the eighth time this season. The Warriors are 8-0 in those games. … Their twelfth consecutive win is good enough to tie for the third-longest win streak in franchise history. The 24-game streak to open the 2015-16 season being the longest. … Warriors 2016 first-round draft pick Damian Jones was recalled from Santa Cruz prior to the game, but was left off of the game’s active roster. … Prior to the game, Durant was named the Western Conference Player of the Week, it is the 25th time he has received the honor. In four games, he averaged 24.8 points, 8.3 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 2.75 blocks.