On one hand, Golden State played to the level of its competition again. But on the other hand, isn’t it odd that we’re saying that about the Warriors.
Golden State pushed coach Mark Jackson closer to a gray beard Tuesday, coughing up a 14-point lead to the lowly New Orleans Hornets before eventually pulling out a 103-96 win.
The Hornets became the latest of inferior teams to push the Warriors to the brink.Detroit, Washington and Charlotte— on the historic 6-1 road trip — all were closer games than they probably should have been.
But as they did all those times, the Warriors did what it took to win. The warmth of winning outweighed the concern over the team’s inability to put teams away.
DAVID LEE: “One of the hardest games to play in the NBA is the first game back home after a road trip and getting back on west coast time. These aren’t excuses it’s just the fact of the matter, especially when we have a team who comes in and plays very hard and has the ability to hit a lot of three point shots. Record isn’t as good as it should be. It definitely had the possibility to be a letdown game but we avoided that at the end.”
The Warriors (17-8) have won seven of their last eight games and are off to their best start since the 1991-92 season. It’s only the fifth time in the last 45 years they have won at least 17 of their first 25 games.
Golden State has a good chance to pad their win-loss record since their next two games — at Sacramento on Wednesday and against visiting Charlotte on Friday — are a combined 20 games under .500.
More on Tuesday’s win …
MVP: Jarrett Jack/Carl Landry
The two former Hornets did their thing against their old team. And the Warriors really needed them to. Jack had his first double-double of the season, totaling 16 points and 10 assists. Landry put in 16 points and 9 rebounds off the bench.
Jack said it was just another game. Landry disagreed.
LANDRY: “Not for me, and I don’t think it was for him. Jarrett was extra amped up and I was, too. “We didn’t need a 5-Hour (Energy Drink). We didn’t need a speech. We didn’t need anything like that. We were ready to play. Yesterday.”
Jack and Landry were both casualties of the Hornets rebuilding. Jack, after a career year as the New Orleans’ starting point guard, was traded to the Warriors for basically nothing. And the Hornets opted not to re-sign Landry.New Orleans drafted players at both their positions in Davis and guard Austin Rivers (No. 10 overall).
While the two landed on their feet, they clearly didn’t forget.
JACKSON: “They played big for us. Obviously, as a player, I understand playing against a team you used to be with. I know it, all too well. With Jack and Carl, you could tell their energy level was different. They’re always great, but this was different. My only concern was that they might get too hyped, but they both had outstanding nights.”
MDP: Stephen Curry
He struggled the most out of the usual key players. He scored 13 points on 13 shots. Much of it was because Jackson had Curry playing off the ball most of the night. When Curry’s in that mode, his game relies heavily on his shooting, which hasn’t been falling lately. He did hit the go-ahead basket after the Hornets rallied to tie the game. But for most of the night, he was relatively absent.
KEY MOMENT I: Golden State controlled the first quarter, leading 31-21 entering the second. Then a three-point play by Landry early in the second quarter put the Warriors up 14. This is about the time you expected the Warriors to smell blood and go on a run to make this a route.
Hornets forward Ryan Anderson, a Cal product, who scored on consecutive possessions. And after Lee converted a hook shot,New Orleans guard Brian Roberts drilled a 3-pointer to cut it to single digits, 40-31.A Landry turnover led to a pair of free throws, cutting the Warriors advantage to seven.
A 3-pointer by Thompson pushed the Warriors lead back to 10. But New Orleans answered with a four straight points by Roger Mason Jr., sandwiched around another Landry turnover. The Warriors failed to create the cushion you’d like and led 59-50 at the half.
YEAH, WHAT HE SAID: “We like the feeling of winning, so when things are kind of slipping away we still have the wherewithal to dig deep and make plays in the fourth quarter. But over the course of a season, you have to have some kind of finishing punch when you have control of the game — especially when you’re at home in front of your fans. You’re going to have to grind out plenty of games regardless. So when you have an opportunity to make that knockout punch end of the third, beginning of the fourth, you’ve got to make that happen.” — Stephen Curry
KEY MOMENT II: Landry hits a step-back jumper at the 7:15 mark to put the Warriors up 12. You think, finally, the Warriors are about to put this game away.
Hornets point guard Greivis Vasquez hits a 3 then, after a Jack turnover, converts a driving layup. Lee misses a jumper and Dominic McGuire gets a dunk on the other end.
Just like that, it’s a five-point game, 90-85.
Lee and Anderson trade a pair of free throws. Then after Klay Thompson missed a 3-pointer, a runner by rookie Austin Rivers cut the Warriors’ lead to 92-89.
Curry missed a jumper, which led to a game-tying three-point play by Anthony Davis. What should’ve been a blowout was now a nail-biter with 4:07 left.
TELLING STAT: Harrison Barnes played 19 minutes, 23 seconds. That means the Warriors went, pretty much, six deep: Curry, Thompson, Lee, Jack, Landry, Green. That has been the trend. Save for scarce minutes here and there for Festus Ezeli, Charles Jenkins and Richard Jefferson,Jackson has been riding the same seven guys.
Curry is averaging a team-high 37.7 minutes. Lee 37.5. Thompson 35. Not terrible. But you have to wonder what happens when the schedule gets tougher. Either the small rotation is good because that’s what’s going to have to happen when the schedule get tough. Or he is wearing them down too much and not showing enough confidence in players 8 through 10.
We’ll find out. So far, it doesn’t look like Barnes is playing with confidence on a consistent basis.
SERIOUSLY?: David Lee’s streak of games with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds came to an end at 7 straight. He finished with 23 points and 9 rebounds. But the blame falls on the Warriors’ statisticians. There were at least two plays where he could’ve gotten that extra rebound.
How does he not get stat-padding love from his home scorekeepers? You know how many assists Rajon Rondo gets courtesy of Boston score keepers? Where is the Oracle love for All-Star hungry Golden State? #Sarcasm
BEFORE YOU GO: The Warriors were 29 of 34 from the free throw line. They took 17 more free throws than the Hornets. The Warriors made ELEVEN more free throws than 3-pointers attempted. On average, they take about 19 3-pointers per game and make 17 free throws.
Lee and Landry were 6 of 7. Jack was 7 of 8. Thompson made all 6. Imagine if that was a trend, the Warriors attacking instead of settling for threes. Might be some good tendencies developing.