Warrior bench proves its worth, boots Spurs

Facing the league’s oldest guard, how fitting it was that an elderly contingent of Warriors carried Golden State to a comeback victory.

David West and the rest of the bench unit pushed the Warriors (43-13) to a 122-105 victory over the San Antonio Spurs (35-22) Saturday evening.

The Warriors got 41 points from their bench, and got some much-needed rest for their stars for the fourth quarter, with West’s 13 points on perfect 6-of-6 shooting leading the way.

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

Head coach Steve Kerr said the stretch in the second quarter with the bench was the key moment in the game:

“I thought that was the story of the game was our bench play, the way those guys straightened everything out for us. We gave up 37 points in the first quarter, defense wasn’t there, we were getting carved up. And as usual that group came in just settled us down.”

For all the talk of Golden State needing to upgrade its bench via the buyout market, it’s a different lineup that’s been a cause for concern recently.

The Warriors starting unit, despite having four All-Stars, has been getting abused of late. Such has been the story for the last week-and-a-half — the starting five come out lackadaisical, throw the ball around and look generally lost, all while the opposing team builds a double-digit advantage.

Then they turn it over to the bench unit featuring West and Shaun Livingston and pray that it can bring them back into the game. Luckily for the Warriors, the two vets usually bail them out, as both have not only given the team an offensive spark, but continue to stifle opposing teams benches on defense.

Stephen Curry said it all starts with defense for Warrior bench unit:

“They just got stops and they were pushing tempo. They’re not usually known to run up and down, but they got stops where they could control the pace of the game and really wear on San Antonio. We needed that boost and they got us back in the game and we were able to not look back from there.”

West continues to enjoy his best statistical season since joining the Warriors, and over his last three games has averaged 10.6 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.3 assists in just 16 minutes per contest.

It was no different Saturday as the Warriors starters got sliced up from the jump by the Spurs passing. San Antonio raced out to a 37-27 lead after one and it looked like it would be another listless performance from the defending champs.

But once again the veteran bench cleaned up the mess the starters left and provided all the energy the Warriors needed for a win.

West said although he’s having a good season individually, it says more about the team he’s playing with:

“I just try to be solid and be steady. I know who I am, I’m not going to get outside of that, and that’s a good starting point. But the strength of this group, is the group.”

And once things were nice and tidy Saturday, the group got a huge push from the starters, who put the game all but out of reach. Klay Thompson led the way with 25 points on 10-of-14 shooting and a very rare dunk in traffic.

Curry and Draymond Green each added had a well-rounded games themselves with Curry dropping 17 points and eight assists, while Green added 17 points, eight boards and 11 assists. Every starter would reach double-digits in scoring, with Kevin Durant being the last to do so — he finished with just 10 points.

Even Zaza Pachulia outpaced him with 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting and numerous finishes inside.

After the disastrous first quarter, the Warriors outscored the Spurs 95-68 the rest of the way. And it was only fitting that the bench finished out the game as the starters watched from the sideline.

Up next

The Warriors wrap up their four-game homestand Monday when they take on the Phoenix Suns. The Suns (18-38) have Devin Booker but not much else and are just a half game away from the worst record in the NBA.

Notes

Stephen Curry played career regular-season game No. 615 Saturday passing Purvis Short for ninth all-time in Warriors franchise history. … Steve Kerr won his 250th career regular-season game Saturday. He passed up Phil Jackson for the record for fewest games needed to reach the 250-win mark. Jackson got his 250 in 346 games, while Kerr reached 250 in just 302. Kerr’s mark of 302 games needed to reach 250 coaching wins in the lowest such total of any major American sport.


Curtis Uemura is SFBay’s Golden State Warriors beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @CUemura on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Warriors basketball.