The Golden State Warriors, and its pursuit of history, enjoyed perhaps its greatest triumph of the season Tuesday night.
The Warriors (54-5) were forced to endure a night without MVP Stephen Curry against an Atlanta Hawks team (33-28) currently standing fifth in the Eastern Conference.
With their 109-105 overtime victory in the return to the Bay, the Warriors kept their home record undefeated, and continued towards clinching the Western Conference’s number one seed.
One might expect Golden State to need a big scoring night from All-Stars Klay Thompson or Draymond Green to continue what is now a six-game winning streak and move to 25-0 at home this season.
That was not the case, however, as Steve Kerr’s offense was entirely predicated on ball control (only 13 turnovers), hustle and making the extra pass. The outcome was six different Warriors finishing the game in double-figures and only Green with more than two turnovers (5).
Kerr spoke about his team’s change of gameplan without it’s scoring leader:
“We told everyone before the game, ‘we want the ball to move, but if you’ve got an opening attack and be aggressive,’ and I thought everybody was aggressive. That was the key, aggression without turnovers.”
In the first half, the extra pass led to an aggressive center Andrew Bogut with open space under the rim and occasionally above it.
Bogut, averaging 9.2 points per game, was the only player to reach double-digits prior to halftime. He would finish with a season-high 19 points and seven rebounds in 31 minutes.
Though it was a light night on the boards for the 7-footer, his offensive impact was enough to overcome the absence of his two teammates.
After the game, he credited his teammates for his offensive production:
“(I got) a lot of easy buckets… Every time I set the screen and rolled hard to the basket, my teammates did a great job of finding me for lobs and dunks, and that got us going in the first half.”
No one found Bogut more than Green, who posted a team-high eight assists. He also added 15 points and 13 rebounds in a game-high 43 minutes, and came up just two assists shy of adding to his league-leading 11 triple-doubles.
Green also made two key plays that may have swung the outcome of the game. A fourth quarter steal magically akin to a Harry Houdini trick, and a hail mary, shot clock beating three pointer that found its way to the bottom of the net and proved to be the dagger.
After the game, Green joked about the shot that Thompson called “unbelievable”:
“I had struggled the whole game, but I knew that one was going in. I T’ed it up right, I lined it up and knocked it down.”
Then added, seriously:
“It was just a desperation heave. When (Hawks wingman) Baze (Kent Bazemore) flew past me, he actually gave me a chance to try to line it up a little bit more. But, its just one of those things that, sometimes the ball bounces your way.”
It was an ugly win, and the second overtime in as many games, but the Warriors hung on without Curry or wingman Andre Iguodala and survived several late scares.
Though Bogut and Green carried much of the load, Thompson’s game-high 26, albeit on 8-27 shooting (6-16 on 3-pointers), was weighted by 11 in the fourth quarter and overtime period alone. The Hawks were paced by forward Paul Millsap’s 19 points.
The Warriors will now take a day off to lick their wounds before hosting the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday. The Thunder, who will undoubtedly be looking for revenge after suffering a loss at the hands of Curry’s most magical moments in a season full of them.
Kerr refused to speculate as to whether or not Curry or Iguodala would be ready for the showdown.
After remaining unbeaten at home, Thompson addressed his team’s chances at the never before reached 41-0 home record:
“We might as well go for that record, for home wins. But we can’t have a letdown when we play a great team on Thursday. … We’re trying to win every game, so if its there for us we’re trying to get it.”