OAKLAND – The Warriors’ stealth weapon has arrived, and his timing is impeccable.
Harrison Barnes spent the heart of the regular season injured or searching for his missing shot. He’s now healthy. And his shot has been located.
All of which delights Barnes, his teammates, his coaches and all those living in the anxious sector of Dub Nation.
Barnes’ latest performance, an efficient 21 points in a 112-101 victory over the Spurs Thursday night, was fundamental to the Warriors locking down the No. 1 seed for the playoffs and becoming the second team in NBA history reach 70 wins.
“Harrison has been great the last few weeks,” coach Steve Kerr said. “I could see it coming before the shooting arrived, because he was really competing defensively and moving well. Just looked a little bouncier.
“The last couple weeks, his shooting as arrived as well, (giving us) that extra floor spacer and a guy who can score inside and get offensive rebounds. He’s been great. It’s good timing, with the playoffs coming up.”
[INSTANT REPLAY: Warriors rout Spurs for 70th win, clinchin No. 1 seed]
With Thursday being his second consecutive game with at least 20 points, Barnes has scored in double digits in each of the last nine games, a stretch in which he has averaged 14.0 points on 50 percent shooting from the field.
It’s a stark contrast to the previous 10 games, during which Barnes averaged 8.0 points on 35.1 percent shooting.
Yet Barnes insists his confidence never wavered.
“I’d go to practice every single day and make a bunch of shots,” he said. “I’m like, ‘Man, if I could only transfer this to the games.’ I just knew it would be a matter of time before they’d eventually start falling.
“My teammates were really supportive,” he added. “My coaches were really supportive. I’d be 0-for-whatever and they’d still encourage me to shoot the ball. When you have confidence in yourself and other people affirm that as well, you continue to stay positive.”
As this team’s X-factor, Barnes’ offense imposes a dilemma on opposing defenses. As much as they want to focus on guards Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, they will have to respect Barnes.
And it wasn’t long ago that those opponents practically begged Barnes to shoot – and received desired results.
“Some nights, shots will fall. Some nights, they won’t,” Barnes said. “Sometimes, you’ll get 15 shots. Sometimes, you won’t. That’s just how it goes. But you could still do things that impact the game.”
The shots fell Thursday. They’ve been falling. And if they keep falling, the Warriors will find a much smoother road to a championship.
And Barnes, who will be a restricted free agent in July, will find himself a lot more popular than he was just a few weeks ago.