The Warriors’ four All-Stars had their jerseys presented to them Wednesday night, which was appropriate because, in the first half, it seemed as though Golden State was looking ahead to New Orleans.
Draymond Green wasn’t running back on defense after he thought he got fouled. Stephen Curry missed a handful of layups. Kevin Durant didn’t crash the boards and got routinely burned by Arron Afflalo and Anthony Tolliver.
Green wanted to get to the All-Star festivities so bad that he got two technicals in succession late in the second quarter to get his break started early.
Losing their emotional leader seemed like a deathblow, especially for a team already sporting a laissez-faire attitude going into halftime.
Instead, out of the locker room came five guys who all sported the intensity of Green, outscoring the Sacramento Kings 42-15 in the third frame to put away the Kings 109-86.
Steve Kerr said that the loss of Green was huge, especially against this Kings team:
“We were in tough shape without Draymond. Obviously against anybody without Draymond is tough but against Cousins, Draymond is really a key guy for us. He’s going to spend a lot of time on him, but I thought our guys responded beautifully.”
Patrick McCaw started the second half in place of Green and generated the spark the team was lacking in the first half. The rookie keyed one stretch that saw the Warriors go on a 22-0 run, and McCaw was in the middle of almost every play, illustrated by his plus-28 in nine third-quarter minutes.
The run was capped with this sweet alley-oop:
— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) February 16, 2017
Despite McCaw finishing with just four points, Kerr said his impact went beyond the box score:
“McCaw was amazing. He had a ton of deflections, he was all over the place and he seemed to be in the middle of every play defensively. And even though his offensive numbers don’t show it, he really had a huge impact on that game.”
Klay Thompson picked apart the Kings with his shooting, as he finished with 35 points on 12-of-18 from the field and 7-of-12 from three. He shot better from everywhere on the court than at the free throw line, where he finished an uncharacteristic 4-of-7.
Thompson has been red-hot leading into the break, as he’s scored 20 or more points in eight straight games, which ties a career-best streak.
The way Thompson got his points made Kevin Durant’s night look quiet, as Durant finished with 21 points on 10-of-15 shooting, seven rebounds and four blocks. And played with much more energy after halftime.
Durant said that Green’s ejection was really the turning point for the Warriors:
“It lit a fire under us, we were kind of sluggish. We would get up four to six points and we wouldn’t really step on them, so I think him getting thrown out kind of woke us up a bit. That third quarter is probably one of the best quarters we’ve had all year.”
JaVale McGee had yet another solid outing as the starting center, even against one of the toughest matchups for him. He held All-Star DeMarcus Cousins to just 13 points and four rebounds while tallying eight points and 10 boards himself.
Durant said McGee and the team as a whole were doing a good job of frustrating the big man:
“Just making him play defense. I think JaVale was good at running to the rim and rolling to the rim and making him move a bit.”
Stephen Curry was the only starter besides Green to really struggle, again being unable to find his stroke. He has scored just 24 combined points over his last two games on just 8-of-32 shooting, so the break comes at a perfect time for him.
And the ironic part of the team looking toward the break too early? All the starters still began their breaks early. Curry sat out all of the fourth quarter, while Durant and Thompson played just four minutes in the fourth since the game was so far out of reach.
The Warriors and their four All-Stars now head to New Orleans for NBA All-Star Weekend, while the everyone else gets a whole eight days off. Golden State won’t return to the court until February 23, when the Clippers and fellow All-Star DeAndre Jordan visit Oracle.
Shaun Livingston returned from his one-game absence following the birth of his daughter. Livingston missed the Warriors game against Denver and actually arrived late to Wednesday’s game, and walked straight onto the court once he arrived. … With his ejection in the second quarter, Draymond Green now has 10 on the year, just six away from a one-game suspension. … Green also had his streak of 10 straight games with at least one steal and one block snapped. It was the longest such streak for a Warriors player since 1996 when Joe Smith did it in 11 straight games. Green finished with just one steal and no blocks.