CLEVELAND — He scored a game-high 29 points. He put up 13 points in the fourth quarter, including a shot clock-beating, nail-in-the-coffin 18-footer with 44.8 seconds left.
But the scoring star of the Warriors’ 105-95 victory here Tuesday night wasn’t who you might expect.
“It wasn’t my night,” guard Monta Ellis said. “It was David Lee’s.”
Ellis had one of his worst offensive performances of the season. He made just 2 of 12 from the field and finished with 10 points.
He left the game with 35.2 seconds left after taking an elbow to the nose from Cavaliers big man Anderson Varejao. With the game was already decided, Ellis didn’t return. X-rays were negative as he suffered just a cut.
With Ellis having an off night, and point guard Stephen Curry (sprained right ankle) in street clothes for the seventh consecutive game, the Warriors (5-8) still managed enough offense to outscore the Cavaliers.
You can thank Lee, who also had nine rebounds as Golden State won back-to-back games road games for the first time since November 2010.
Tuesday night continued a torrid stretch for Lee. Over his last five games, Lee is averaging 24.6 points on 64.3 percent shooting. He’s also averaging 11.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists.
Sunday’s season-opening loss to the Clippers left lots of questions heading into Game 2 tonight.
Needless to say, this one is vital. Golden State needs to take advantage of having a four-game home stand to start the season. Going 1-3, or even 2-2, heading into a three-game road trip (Suns, Spurs, Lakers) would be really bad.
Here are a few things to look out for tonight.
How about this for a change of pace: the Warriors didn’t fall apart in the third quarter and pulled away in the fourth.
Warriors won the third quarter and outscored Chicago 60-44 in the second half, a detour from the trend of hot starts and third quarter meltdowns. And they did it all with virtually six players: Ellis, Maggette, Curry, Biedrins and D-Leaguers Cartier Martin and Anthony Tollilver (Devean George started and played 5:39, and Chris Hunter played 8:51 off the bench). Ellis/Maggette/Curry combined for 94 points on 34-for-71 shooting.
NELLIE: “So here we are, limited. Just about 7 and a half players, but we found a way. That’s good. As you guys know, we’ve actually been playing decently. Usually have had pretty good first halves and then the third quarter has been a problem for us. But tonight we won the third quarter and we had a big fourth quarter. So a very good game for us.”
The morning practice was fairly eventful. Here were the highlights:
*Nelson walked from the court to the hallway to talk to the media. But before he said a word, he walked back toward the court to shout something to his rookie.
“Belinelli,” he screamed to Marco, “$100 fine for your friend sleeping in shootaround!”
There were several laughs as all the attention pointed to Marco’s peeps, posted in the stands sporting sweats, a red long-sleeve shirt and some aviator sunglasses. He was shocked.
“Bull#@&%!” he retorted in jest through a thick accent. “Bull#@&%!”
Marco’s friend said he wasn’t sleep, he was just relaxing behind his shades.
*Nelson said Mickael Pietrus was playing tonight, his first time since the first Lakers game. Of course, Pietrus wasn’t so sure.
“I feel all right,” MP2 said. “I’mma see tonight.”
When I told Pietrus that Nellie said he was playing, he looked a bit surprised.
“He said that?”
“Yes, he did. Is it not official yet?”
“It’s official when you see my name on the list (lineup).”
*A jewel of honesty from from Nellie on Stephen Jackson’s play of late:
“He’s been awful. He has not been playing well. … We’re looking for him to come out of it. … He’s our emotional leader. No question. … He’s got to rise above that and he understands that as a leader and a captain.”
*The Warriors seemed light and carefree despite what is on the line. As a group of them filed toward the locker room, Al Harrington was playfully interviewing Andris Biedrins.
“Andris,” Harrington said through a grin, mimicking the media types, “How does it feel to get 15 rebounds?” then passed the invisible mic to Biedrins’ lips.
“Andris, how does it feel to be 7 feet and be a good free throw shooter now.”
Rookie forward Brandan Wright is set to start tonight, along with Stephen Jackson, who’s back from his sprained ankle. This won’t be Wright’s first career NBA start — that came against New Orleans on Jan. 4 — but after that game, Wright sat out 15 of the next 21 contests at Don Nelson’s behest.
This, on the other hand, has the vibe of being the debut of something big. We’ll see in about 3 hours.