The Warriors really needed this one before their six-game road trip, because a loss to the Nets would’ve negated the win they had in overtime against the Rockets two nights earlier. The “no excuse” bunch didn’t have Andrew Bogut (shoulder) or David Lee (stomach flu), but the Nets ruined what would’ve been an historically perfect road trip in January and, despite how well Brooklyn has played since that game, this is one of those trademark “games the Warriors should win at home” that they’ve handled so poorly over that same period.
Despite the loss of Bogut, the defense looked as good as it has all year. Despite Lee’s absence, they destroyed the Nets from a rebounding perspective. Despite Stephen Curry getting about 78% of Brooklyn’s defensive attention, the Warriors came through with a 93-86 win after scoring the last seven points of the game.
“This was a playoff-type intense game. They made it look ugly, they forced us into a slow pace,” said Mark Jackson.
“We defended at a high level, we helped, we communicated defensively, we had active hands. When we’re at our best, those are the things that we do. We came up with big-time turnovers. And I love the fact that our perimeter guys did a great job of getting back into the picture and rebounding the basketball. Andre had 11, Klay had six, Steph had five. That’s 22 rebounds from the starting perimeter guys. That’s an outstanding job, you don’t see that much.”
Then there was Jermaine O’Neal, who followed up 37 minutes against Houston with 34 of the best minutes he’s played in years. 23 points (on 9-of-12 shooting), 13 rebounds and maybe more dunks than we’ve seen from a Warrior in one game all season. O’Neal has only posted 23-and-13 twice since 2007, and the last time was back on Feb. 6, 2010.
Maybe it was the chance to go against an equally ancient group of players that helped O’Neal turn back the clock.
“I haven’t seen JO play like that since Indiana. I’m glad he found the fountain of youth,” said Kevin Garnett, a former teammate of O’Neal’s. The similarities don’t end there. Garnett came out of high school to make his NBA debut in 1995. O’Neal did the same a year later.
“KG, man, we’ve had some dog battles. He’s one of the all-time greats, and anytime you have an opportunity to play against a guy of that caliber, who’s really historic. It gives you a little more juice. I feel like I have a little bit more left right now, because I think he’s top five all time in minutes,” O’Neal said.
O’Neal’s wrist is still painful after surgery, but the time off seems to have helped his legs. 71+ minutes over the last two games isn’t exactly what Jackson probably had in mind, but that’s the kind of “sacrifice” O’Neal talked about coming out of the break.
“He’s a big time warrior, no pun intended. The guy has been a vocal leader for us and the great thing about it is he’s getting the opportunity to put a stamp on what he says. It’s no longer what he says, but what he is doing,” Jackson said.
O’Neal had a fantastic game, but Curry had one of those games that certain people have been looking for. The points and assists (17/8) weren’t crazy high, but to be considered a superstar one must make his teammates better. With the Nets doubling Curry on several occasions from the outset, he and the Warriors were able to get other people like O’Neal and Draymond Green (who was involved in a car accident before the game but scored a career-high 18 points) involved offensively.
However, this game was mostly about a swarming defensive attack, where for the second time in three games the Warriors had more steals (12) than turnovers committed (10). Jackson is a big fan of saying “to their credit.” So to Andre Iguodala’s credit, he had four steals to go along with eight points, 10 rebounds and six assists … and it seemed like he ended up with half of the loose balls available in this game.
— Curry banked in a three with 37 seconds left to give Golden State a five-point lead. He was laughing after the shot, and while he wouldn’t admit anything in regards to whether or not he called glass (“no comment” was his response), he seemed to enjoy talking about that shot after the game.
— I asked Jackson about whether Curry called it, and here’s what he said:
— One of the great parts about this team playing in Oakland:
Even though it was the censored version, a good percentage of fans here at Oracle yelled Too $hort‘s favorite word during “Blow the Whistle”
— Bay Area Sports Guy (@BASportsGuy) February 23, 2014
— Jackson had some interesting comments about starting 3-0 after the All-Star Break:
Coming out of the break we’ve rededicated ourselves. The guys talked about it and to their credit, we responded. Being truthful, we’re not that good of a team coming off of a break. Whether it be a day off, two days off, the All-Star break was basically a week off of not playing real competition. But I challenged the guys before the break to make sure they did something over the break to make sure they were ready. And to their credit, they responded. Now the challenge is to take our act on the road.
— The Steve Blake trade paid dividends in this game. Not only did he make a couple threes, he also dished out five assists.
On the Warriors: Grind-it-out win tonight. Can see the stretch-run/playoff rotation developing: Less Crawford and almost no Speights.
— Tim Kawakami (@timkawakami) February 23, 2014
Yup. Speights actually went 3-of-4 from the field, but he and Crawford (who played poorly against the Nets in just about every way imaginable) probably won’t see much time when the #FullSquad is around. Curry-Thompson-Iguodala-Lee-Bogut, along with Barnes-Green-O’Neal-Blake, is probably as deep as the rotation will go if/when they make it to the playoffs.
— I’ve been harping on this 50-win thing for a little bit (they’re 16 wins away now), but that’s mostly because the players have mentioned it repeatedly throughout the year. I asked Curry whether that’s a goal they’re cognizant of. While he doesn’t want to limit his team’s magic number, it sounds like something they talked about coming out of the break.
“If we get to 50 this year, it means we accomplished the internal goal that we’ve had set forth for us after the All-Star break.”
— Joe Lacob hung around the locker room after the game until O’Neal finished up with his interview session. With bags of ice taped around his knees and sitting at his locker, O’Neal was more than happy to bump fists with the Warriors owner. It sounds like O’Neal might stick around with the Warriors after this season in some capacity.
“You’re going to roll me out of here at the end of the season,” O’Neal said. “Hopefully I can continue to work with the team, the community and the organization going forward. I’m not 100% sure I’m done, but I’m going to play this year like my last.”