The Warriors’ 103-92 win over visiting Indiana was of a different breed.
It wasn’t the same résumé highlight as their victory at the Los Angeles Clippers, or last week’s win over visiting Brooklyn. Nor was it the emotional, revenge victory they scored over Denver on Friday or in the season opener at Phoenix. And it certainly wasn’t the dominating performance the Warriors are still looking to put together.
Saturday’s win was of the mundane-yet-difficult kind Golden State (10-6) will need to pile up as they matriculate the season. An under-the-radar victory on a forgettable December night that failed to lure a sell-out crowd at Oracle. An earned triumph over a sturdy Indiana squad all-too-easy to overlook yet good enough to make the Warriors pay if they had.
DAVID LEE: “We knew this was going to be a grind-it-out game. This wasn’t going to be a flashy game. … “It’s great. It’s just a huge thing. You talk about winning and losing in the NBA and rarely are you going to win or lose by 25 points, usually it comes down to the little plays. I think a lot of times the team that comes out with the victory is the team with the better chemistry. Last year we were awful in games that were close and this year we’ve been pretty good so we have to keep improving on the little teams.”
Golden State has won three straight and five of its last six for the first time since 2008. Monday, the Warriors host Orlando with a chance to move five games above .500 as they head on a seven-game trip.
The schedule gets brutal in January and February when the Warriors start taking on the league’s top teams on a regular basis. But for now, they are doing exactly what they need to do — keep plugging along, storing up victories like squirrels hoard nuts for the winter.
MARK JACKSON: “We’ve got a group of guys that are just invested in each other.”
More on Saturday’s victory …
MVP: Jarrett Jack
He finished with 18 points, five rebounds and five assists. But he was far more integral than his numbers might suggest. Jack had the hot hand as his pull-up was clicking. And he his usually steady self.
He ran point guard much of the second half and all of the fourth quarter. That was key as Indiana is long and athletic and can be a problem defensively.
MDP: David Lee
He actually wasn’t that disappointing. But the pickings were slim. (Just doesn’t seem fair to keep picking on Harrison Barnes. More on that later) Lee gets the nod because he missed 8 of 12 shots and really didn’t have an answer for David West (23 points, 10 of 16 shooting). Still, Lee wasn’t bad. He had 12 rebounds and 4 assists, 2 steals. He was a team-best +13.
KEY MOMENT I: With 2:55 left in the third quarter, and the Warriors up 11, Jarrett Jack got a little lazy. At halfcourt, Pacers guard D.J. Augustin picked Jack’s pocket and eased in for a break-away lay-up.
For a point guard, it’s one of the most embarrassing experiences you can have happen. Jarrett Jack was not happy about it.
JACK: “I needed that. You see I went right down and scored.”
He immediately hit a pull-up over Augustin the next time down. In the final minute, when the Pacers got hot from 3-point range, it was Jack who kept the Pacers at bay.
After back-to-back 3-pointers by Gerald Green and Sam Young, Jack calmed things down with a pull-up 17 footer. After a fade-away jumper by West, Jack dropped in a 7-foot floater.
Then, with what proved to be a real difference maker, Jack’s 57-foot heave just before the third quarter horn rattled in.
JACK: “Honestly, it was just a heave. I just let it go and I actually thought it was going to go off the backboard. It was a crazy play, I think I’ve been due for one all year. I’ve had them rim in and out and I’ve launched a few of them.”
It looked as if Jack knew it was going in. As soon as he shot it, he crouched down and stared, like he knew he was onto something. And when it went in, his anxious crouch turned into a swag pose. He just held it while his teammates celebrated around him.
It seems Jack has been designated as the end-of-quarters, end-of-shot-clock, rabbit-out-of-the-hat guy. He finally got one to land Saturday.
His half-courter put the Warriors 82-72 entering the third quarter. And it seemed to deflate the Pacers.
JACKSON: “You look at the reaction from the bench, you look at Jack’s reaction with the pose and the camera shot … I think anytime you don’t finish out the play defensively, it can take the wind from you. That certainly took place at the end of that quarter.”
“I’m going to tell you the truth, the thing I appreciated the most about it after playing for 17 years, after being an analyst and now as a coach, I’ve seen guys not take that shot because they did not want to mess up their field goal percentage. I’ve always thought how selfish of a play that is. For him to take that shot, it shows what he’s about – it’s about the team.”
YEAH, WHAT HE SAID: “This counts as much as the Denver game does in the standings. This is one of them games that might not make the national news, but it’s a game that we’re going to need. Now we’re looking at 10-6 instead of 9-7. That’s a big difference,” — David Lee
COACH’S CORNER:Jackson, again, finished with Jarrett Jack at point guard and Curry off the ball. Unlike last game, when Golden State got two bad possessions while Jack forced the action, it worked against the Pacers.
Jack had his pull-up going. And, save for the aforementioned hiccup, he was his usual steady self. That was important because of the Pacers are athletic, physical and can be a problem defensively.
Jackson went out of his way to praise Harrison Barnes’ defense on Paul George, who went scoreless on seven shots in 29 minutes. Certainly, Barnes deserved the praise. But another thing Barnes deserve more of is shots.
Remember the four-game stretch where he averaged 17.3 points? Barnes was averaging 13 shots. Since then, he’s been relatively iced from the offense, averaging six shots per game. He hasn’t shot it well, but part of that is probably because he goes long stretches without a shot. For a scorer, that triggers a strong desire to shoot, which usually leads to forcing it.
The larger point: when Barnes was producing on offense, it was deliberate. The Warriors ran plays for him, put him in good spots. Now, he’s just out there. It looks as if it may not matter because the Warriors have won four of the five games Barnes has been an extra on offense. But for the long haul, it helps his confidence. And he takes better shots, generally, than the GSW guards. Thompson was 8 of 14 to start, then missed his last nine shots. It just doesn’t seem efficient for Thompson to take 23 shots and Barnes 4.
On the flip side, it was good to see Festus Ezeli play 22 minutes. Still, none in the fourth quarter. Ditto for Biedrins. He will play Andrew Bogut in the fourth, right? Of course he will. Right?
KEY MOMENT II: The Pacers, to start the fourth quarter, clearly had the agenda to go inside. Pacers big man Ian Mahinmi scored four straight points to cut the Warriors’ lead to six. You could almost hear the 18,000-plus fans at Oracle say “uh oh.”
But Jack came down and hit a floater.
After Tyler Hansbrough missed a seven-footer, Jack set up Carl Landry for a dunk. The Warriors were back up by 10. More important, it was clear they had no intentions of folding. Not this night. The Pacers never got closer than 7 the rest of the way.
TELLING STAT: The Warriors had 18 seconds chance points.Indiana 8. Golden State, despite playing 26 minutes with an actual center in the game, won the battle of the boards and improved to 10-1 when they win the rebounding battle. Again, they did it by committee. Thompson with 7. Jack with 5. The Warriors’ 11 offensive rebounds helped them take six more shots than Indiana.
JACK: “It means a tremendous amount. Our team has put in an incredible effort. They have great big guys in Roy Hibbert and David West. They have tremendous athleticism on the wing in Gerald Green and Paul George and Lance Stephenson, and we just met the challenge. We’re a team that when we take the court we feel like we can play with anybody in this league.”
SERIOUSLY?: Stephen Curry played well, but he didn’t appear to do anything spectacular. But when you look up, he had 20 points, 11 assists and 2 steals in 37 minutes. That’s crazy when you think about it. That’s a career night for many players. He made it look relatively easy. It was his second straight game with at least 20 points and 10 assists.
He did finish with 4 turnovers, two in the first five minutes, but they didn’t damage the Warriors noticeably. He was patient and in control most of the game, did a good job using screens to get in the lane and made two big 3-pointers down the stretch. He took mostly smart shots, knocking down 7 of 14, including 3 of 5 from 3-point range.
CURRY: “You just have to be aggressive whatever happens. Each play you’re trying to make the right play whether it’s getting open for a shot or making the right play to get it to somebody else that’s open to make a shot. We’ve had good offensive rhythm the last couple games so we’ve got to keep that going.”
BEFORE YOU GO: Only 11 minutes for Draymond Green on Saturday. Anybody notice Jackson’s rotation has trimmed to 7.5 deep?