The Warriors have faced a crisis of sorts in recent weeks. That’s mostly because they haven’t met preseason expectations at any point, save for their 10-game win streak back in late-December/early-January. They had reasons to feel like things would continue on the same downward plane early on against Chicago, with Andrew Bogut and David Lee sitting out due to shoulder soreness and the Bulls taking a 34-18 second quarter lead.
From there, the defense picked up and the shots started falling, and Golden State outscored the Bulls by 31 the rest of the way and won 102-87. Stephen Curry led the way with a brilliant shooting and passing performance: 34 points (13-of-19 from the field, 4-of-6 on threes) and nine assists, while also leading the way with the kind of positive emotion that’s rarely been seen from the Warriors during their midseason malaise.
“For us, we’ve got to get back to having fun, man. And enjoy small victories. We put so much pressure on ourselves and so much stress when you’re not performing the way you want to. We’re not going to be frontrunners, but you’ve got to enjoy the moment and have fun,” Curry said.
“When good things happen on the court, smile, jump around, get that spunk back that we had earlier in the season and last year. That’s something that’ll continue to build that chemistry and get us through tough times. We can enjoy this. We’ve got to understand that we have to be mature enough to come back next game and continue that effort. Not to just assume that (since) we won won game, we can win another. Which obviously hasn’t happened for us.”
Case in point: Curry had a two-for-one situation at the end of the first half after the Warriors went up by a point, their first lead of the night. He had an extra bounce in his step as he crossed halfcourt, and then he nailed a 30-footer and let out a yell (more like a series of yells) that we haven’t seen from anyone for a while.
Then there was Draymond Green’s dunk over Joakim Noah in the third quarter. (We set up a whole GIFs post that featured two angles of the dunk and Green’s exuberant reaction.) I asked Curry — who picked up the assist when Green’s man came over to double — about whether what we saw from Green fit in with what Curry wanted to see more of from the team.
“Oh, for sure. When good things happen, enjoy yourself. You don’t have to showboat or taunt the other team, you can just enjoy yourself. Draymond did it on that play, we did it a couple other times tonight. It just gets the energy (up) and keeps us going,” said Curry, who sounded like he came to the realization that the Warriors’ attitude needed adjusting after hearing from an unlikely source.
“My wife doesn’t know much about basketball. But she’s watching the games at home, the last three. When I came home the other night she’s like, ‘Are y’all alright?’ Because she was looking at our faces and we were kind of down at all points of the game. For her to say that, it’s kind of telling that we’ve got to turn around our body language, our energy, and hopefully that’ll carry us.”
Mark Jackson, who won his 100th game tonight, echoed that sentiment.
“During the process of work to be done, we will celebrate a hundred wins. We will celebrate having a starter in the All-Star Game. We will celebrate having Harrison Barnes represent us,” Jackson said.
“We will celebrate along the way the individual accomplishments of each and every one of our guys, but the big picture is the success of this basketball team.”
In a long season, it’s difficult to remember that message when there isn’t much to celebrate. Finding their shooting touch against a defense as good as Chicago’s has to feel good for a team that scored just 75 two nights earlier.
— Curry and Green having fun:
— The Warriors did most of their damage with Jermaine O’Neal off the floor. Mark Jackson has been hesitant to go small all season, and the Warriors’ philosophy after depending on Monta Ellis as their No. 1 option can be summarized by four words: bigger is always better. But the Warriors did just fine with Green and Harrison Barnes taking turns against Joakim Noah, who said, “I should’ve been more aggressive.”
— After going scoreless through the first three quarters, Barnes scored 11 points in the fourth while making three from distance.
“I thought early on he was pressing. I thought he was very patient in the second half, waited for his opportunities, allowed the ball to be swung to him and then made the defense pay the price. It’s great to see a young guy make plays and establish confidence and a rhythm. I believe in him and he’s going to play. I believe he’s going to have some big moments for us,” said Jackson.
— I Twitter-griped about Klay Thompson’s lack of rebounding production (he had one rebound tonight, which means he has collected either one or zero rebounds in nine of his last 12 games), but the Warriors won’t mind if he makes half his shots and half his threes while scoring 22 points.
— Not a good sign for Marreese Speights that he only got 12 minutes without Lee or Bogut in the lineup. I loved this quote from Jackson: “Jermaine gave us great minutes, Draymond battled and even Mo in the first half.”
Even Mo! Now there’s a vote of confidence.
— It sure was odd seeing Curry guard Mike Dunleavy, for a lot of reasons.
— Something that doesn’t get talked about much is Jordan Crawford’s impact since coming over in the trade with Boston and Miami. He played over 20 minutes and finished with 11 points, five rebounds and three assists. I asked Jackson about Crawford’s game, and Jackson described him in an interesting way.
He’s a guy that plays with an edge. He’s a guy that can get his own shot. He’s an underrated passer, not afraid of the moment and he takes the pressure off of Steph to have to handle the basketball.
He kind of reminds me of a guy in the park. He comes in, doesn’t stretch, doesn’t get loose. I put him in and say, ‘You need a possession to get loose?’ No, run right to an iso and you say, ‘How did this dude do that?’ You’re shaking your head as he’s leaving the park with the ball in his hands because you’ve lost again. He’s been great. And he’s been a great teammate for us.
— Especially when compared to his new head coach, Crawford is a man of few words. Here’s what he said when I asked him about his role on the Warriors:
“Just be myself. Sometimes it’s going to call for me to score, other times play-make for other players. I just watch the game before I go in to see what I need to do.”
— More from Jackson on his 100th victory:
Funny thing is I made fun of Kent Bazemore because he tweeted out, instagrammed a picture of himself with balloons that said “100” and a cake. He was celebrating his 100th game played just a couple games ago. I talked to him and laughed, and he said, “You don’t know I dreamt about this.” And now it’s not so funny, because I was a kid sitting in my house. Dreaming to play, dreaming to announce, and dreaming to coach. And to realize the awesome blessing of being able to win 100 games and coach this group of guys. I don’t take it for granted.