But during the break between the third and fourth quarters, Golden State’s lead down to 13, Mark Jackson didn’t look too worried, or upset, or the least bit irritated.
He then walked over to his huddled team and started talking, his expression not even changing.
Maybe he knew it was just a matter of time before the Warriors’ defense asserted its will. If so, he was right.
Golden State put the clamps down on Utah, leading to a 98-87 win. The Warriors held Utah to 39.5 percent shooting. If not for a garbage-time meltdown by the end of the bench, they would’ve held the Jazz under 80.
They dominated the boards (57-40) and capitalized off nearly every Utah miscue, scoring 19 points off 11 Jazz turnovers. That’s how you win going away despite shooting 40.5 percent – with defense.
“I like what we’re doing. We’re building and we’re starting to get our identity defensively,” center Andrew Bogut said. “We’re only as good as we are defensively. Whenever we (defend) on a consistent basis, we’re tough to stop.”
More on Monday’s win
Warriors point guard Stephen Curry left the game with 8:50 in the fourth quarter with a head injury.
Curry was swarmed by Jazz defenders in the lane and knocked down as he tried to pass the ball back out. While he was on the ground, Utah forward Marvin Williams fell on top of Curry’s head, smashing the left side of Curry’s face into the hardwood.
Andrew Bogut and Draymond Green immediately signaled to the bench it was a head injury. The Warriors’ star laid face-down on the court for several minutes, his teammates and head coach Mark Jackson standing over him.
Eventually, Curry rolled onto his back, then sat up. He was helped up and walked off under his own power. He headed straight to the locker room with head athletic trainer Johan Wang.
Curry left the game with 22 points, eight assists, six rebounds and three steals.
Rookie center Dewayne Dedmon almost made the Warriors’ opening night roster after a solid training camp showing. So when back-up center Jermaine O’Neal went down with an injury, it was a no-brainer where the Warriors would turn for a stop gap on the frontline.
Golden State signed Dedmon, who was on their NBA Development League roster, to a contract Monday and he will be in uniform tonight as the Utah Jazz host Golden State. The Warriors were down to two centers, Andrew Bogut and little-used rookie Ogjnen Kuzmic, once O’Neal joined center Festus Ezeli on the shelf.
After the Warriors 100-88 semi-easy handling of Utah, it is easy to surmise their days of hiccups against bad teams are over. Not so fast says Stephen Curry.
“It’s too early, it’s only 10 games,” he said after totaling 15 points, 11 assists and zero turnovers. “There’s still a lot of time to keep building our chemistry when it comes to finishing games. We’re a lot more experienced than we were last year, just going through those times where we couldn’t hold the lead. Hopefully we’re better at it, but still not proven yet. We’ve got to continue to stay focused in that area when it comes to finishing games.”
The Warriors didn’t fall for the trap game. Coming off the OKC thriller, they came out of the gates and handled Utah. They had a third-quarter lapse, to be sure, getting their lead cut to eight.
But one good run put away the lowly Jazz. That’s how its supposed to be, right?
The Warriors improved to 5-0 at home this season. They have now held a double-digit lead in all five of their home games, with three wire-to-wire victories, and have trailed for only a combined 15:28 thus far over their home slate.
“It’s something that is very important and I think we’ve handled it well,” David Lee said. “It’s something that we need to do to be a successful team and to reach where we want to reach in this regular season. So far we’ve ‘beaten the teams we’re supposed to beat’ and we’ve won games at home. Now we need to go on the road and do the same thing against a Jazz team that’s going to come back and want a little revenge, so we’ve got a tough task ahead of us in the next couple of days and we’re ready for it.”
More on Saturday’s victory…
The buzzer-beating, game-winning jumper by Andre Iguodala did more than just push the Warriors’ record to 6-3. It did more than cap the leader in the clubhouse for the best game of the season, a 116-115 Warriors win over Oklahoma City.
As the Warriors look toward another playoff run, victories like the one Iguodala secured have psychological value. It was confirmation the Warriors can beat the best teams in the league, even when they don’t play their best. It will be a reference point if they grow into their new presuned identity as Western Conference power.
“You begin to establish a belief that you belong,” coach Mark Jackson said. “You believe that no matter who you’re facing, you should win. And when you talk about facing heavyweights, you can win no matter where you play. And I think we’re there.”
This game was lost. Thunder guard Russell Westbrook drilled a 29-footer with 2.3 seconds left — erasing Golden State’s once 14-point fourth-quarter lead — to put the Warriors down a point and force the Oracle crowd to watch him holster his imaginary guns and scream about his greatness.
Doubt was ready to creep in. Criticism was making its way to the fingertips of the news gatherers and the lips of NBA fans. And now, thanks to Iguodala, the next time such is on the cusp the Warriors will have something to draw on.
“It shows confidence,” Jackson said. “We’ve got guys who believe, ‘We’re not going anywhere.’ I think at the end of the day what that does is it develops something. It prepares you for the moment. Later in the playoffs, as you advance as you move on. You know you can do it.”
It also validates Golden State’s belief they have added a weapon that can get them over the hump.
Some, like me, contend Iguodala was exactly the piece this core of players needed. He showed exactly that in the biggest game of the year so far, well before he hit the winner.
Having him as an option in clutch moments is a bonus.
“That’s why we’re so deep and talented,” Stephen Curry said. “That’s why ‘Dre was such a big acquisition for us because he has the history of making big shots and playing well late in games and down the stretch. He showed that tonight and showed why he is so important to our future and where we’re trying to go, he’s huge for us.”
More on Thursday’s victory…
If you ask Stephen Curry, it’s a no-brainer who he wants to defend when the Warriors host the Oklahoma City Thunder tonight: Russell Westbrook.
The same goes for Chris Paul. For Derrick Rose. For Tony Parker. Curry wants, as he said after Thursday’s shoot around, to defend all the best point guards.
“Of course I do,” Curry said.
But that assignment usually goes to guard Klay Thompson, Curry’s backcourt mate. Thompson is 6-foot-7 with good athleticism and size who is sneaky good at moving laterally and contesting shots. It causes problems for point guards, especially the smaller ones, and it makes Thompson much better at keeping them out of the paint than Curry.
That is essential to the Warriors’ defensive game plan, protecting the paint. Not to mention, Curry’s propensity for foul trouble and heavy load on offense are also factors. That’s why Jackson sticks with the game plan. No matter how hard Curry lobbies.