The Warriors had a sour taste in their mouths from Friday’s loss at Orlando. So even though they had secured a successful trip, winning five of the first six games, they really wanted to win the finale of the seven-game trip.
And that showed in their play.
The Warriors proved the Orlando loss was much more a hiccup than a drift back to reality. They returned to their scrappy, rebounding, sharp-shooting selves Saturday, beating Atlanta soundly, 115-93, on its own court.
These Warriors became the first team in franchise history to win six games on one road trip.
JARRETT JACK: “I think it does wonders for our confidence. It makes us battle tested. None of these teams gave us any of these games. We had to come out here and work for each and every game as soon as we stepped between the lines.”
Anyone associated with the Warriors would have been happy with a 4-3 road trip. Golden State had already won five games on a road trip, which had only been done four times before in team history.
But the Warriors (16-8) emphatically declared they wanted more. They beat the Hawks in convincing fashion, an exclamation point to the road trip. The win over the Hawks gave the Warriors three quality victories: Brooklyn, Miami and Atlanta.
DAVID LEE: “Confidence isn’t a problem with this team. At the same time, we also know we can lose to anybody. So this team stays humble and keeps working hard. … We’re going to keep battling.”
This was such a good trip, coach Mark Jackson was talking about playoff seeding afterwards.
More on Saturday’s win …
WRITER’S RANT: As a preface, I’m straining at gnats here. This is not a rant in the sense that it’s a travesty. But nitpicking at a team that’s proving to be the real deal. With that said …
I know Mark Jackson is a “feel” coach. So things can change any moment. But I am noticing a trend that I think is a bad one.
He started with Jack running the point in the fourth quarter and moving Curry to shooting guard. I have some issues with the frequency of that, but it’s obvious why he does it. Plus, the Warriors are clearly better with Jack on the floor, and that’s the position he plays the best.
But lately, Jackson seems to be moving Curry off the ball early and keeping him there longer. I think that’s risky.
For starters, Curry’s thing is that he’s a point guard who can score. When he’s running point, you have to be worried about his shot and his passing. That’s what makes him such a tough cover, why Miami decided to give him Jordan treatment.
Curry as a shooting guard is JUST a scorer. He’s just another player looking for his shot, which makes him easier to defend.
You could see when he’s running off those screens, Atlanta is jumping the route, sometimes overplaying well enough to force Jack to go to the other side or dribble the ball longer while Curry gets open. It’s in these times Curry is diminished from one of the league’s top young point guards to Jason Kapono.
That’s fine in spots. But for super long stretches, it robs the Warriors’ offense of its potency. Either the entire offense seems to become about getting Curry a shot — and Curry ends up having to get work hard for cracks of space to get his shot off (because unlike Kapono or Redick or Steve Novak, Curry is just 6-foot-3 and despite his quick release needs space against players with length). Or Curry, the team’s best playmaker, winds up tucked in the corner.
It’s a good option to have for Jackson, moving Curry off the ball. And when he’s rolling, Curry is certainly a serious weapon at shooting guard. But there is a ramification for milking it too much.
MVP: David Lee
He owned Josh Smith again. For the seventh consecutive game, Lee totaled at least 20 points and 10 rebounds. No Warrior has done that since Nate Thurmond in the 1970-71 season. It’s the longest such streak in the NBA this year (LeBron James had a six-game streak).
Lee was 10 of 14 shooting and also had 4 assists, 3 steals and 3 turnovers. And he played Josh Smith perfectly: playing back when he faces up, play him to the middle (where there’s help) when Smith posts.
MDP: Klay Thompson
Foul trouble jacked him of any chance of having a good game. He finished 3 of 9 with four rebounds in shy of 23 minutes. Him being out of the game exposed the Warriors’ hole at shooting guard. Golden State was fine this game, but the real back-up shooting guard — point guard Stephen Curry — struggled to find his shot. Though he was 3 of 3 from the field with two assists, Jackson doesn’t seem to trust Jenkins steadily at shooting guard.
Simply, the Warriors not only need Thompson to be on the floor, but they need him to be productive.
KEY MOMENT I: The Warriors’ lead was 50-44 with 2:26 left in the first half. Then Golden State put together a surge that changed the tone of the game. It started with a layup from Lee. He then stole a Josh Smith pass and that led to a Jarrett Jack 3-pointer. Lee followed an Al Horford layup by dropping in a 17-footer. Moments later, after Horford split a pair of free throws, Jack nailed another 3-pointer. The Warriors pushed the lead to 13 in less than two minutes.
YEAH, WHAT HE SAID: Quote of the night is in video form …
COACH’S CORNER: Mark Jackson called Andris Biedrins number to start instead of opening the game with a small lineup, which kept the rotations in tact. Biedrins helped set the tone of rebounding and defense. In his 14 minutes, he had 7 rebounds and a block.
But perhaps the most notable decision from the bench was making a concerted effort to get Barnes the ball.He had 10 points during the second quarter, when Golden State scored 36 points andtook control of the game. For the first time in a while, the Warriors went to him in the post consistently. He made it pay off by making 7 of his first 10 shots.
KEY MOMENT II: The first five minutes of the third quarter, Golden State put its foot on the gas instead of allowing the Hawks to creep back in. Back-to-back baskets by Lee, the last a 20-footer at the 7:15 mark of the third quarter, put the Warriors up 19.
Lee had eight points during the Warriors’ 12-5 run to start the third quarter.
The lead got as high as 24 and the Warriors never looked back.
TELLING STAT: The Hawks shot 36.9 percent from the field. That’s the lowest mark for the Hawks this season and the worst shooting performance for a Warriors opponent.Atlanta’s starters were 14 for 45 from the field. Josh Smith finished 1 of 12. Jeff Teague 3 of 11.
CURRY: “Defense, man. When we do that, we will have a chance of winning the game.”
SERIOUSLY?: Draymond Green said after the game he may have found his stroke. He nailed a 21-footer with 24.6 seconds left, and that seemed to be the one.
GREEN: “It felt how right. It felt how I wanted to feel.”
Green has been struggling with his shot all season. He finished 2 of 8 on Saturday, missing his first six shots. With Friday’s 0-for-4 shooting performance, Green had missed 10 straight before getting a layup to fall in the fourth quarter.
He said he’s going to keep shooting because he knows he’s got a jumper. He just has to stop thinking so much and get a rhythm.
Of course, the way Green is playing, no one cares about his shooting. Even Saturday, he had eight rebounds, two steals and a block in 20 minutes. But if his shot gets going, that could mean trouble for opponents.
BEFORE YOU GO: Festus Ezeli was a pre-game scratch from the lineup Saturday. He banged his right knee in Friday’s loss in Orlando and did not return. He said he tried to give it a go Saturday, but pregame warm-ups revealed he wasn’t ready.
Ezeli said he will have his knee checked out when the team returns home. He said he doesn’t expect to be out long. But as long as he is out, the Warriors are down two centers and relying on Biedrins.