OAKLAND – After vowing at the start of the season to protect their home court, the Warriors have spent a full month staggering and skidding at Oracle Arena. Even when they won, there was constant drama.
They spared themselves even a rumor of tension Tuesday in a 104-93 triumph over New Orleans. This game was completely theirs, from tip-to-buzzer, the Pelicans little more than stage props with a heartbeat.
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“We needed it,'' coach Mark Jackson said.
“It's a good feeling,'' said Stephen Curry said. “I haven't felt it in a while. The challenge now is . . . It's the NBA, (so) to do that one night, hooray. You have to go out Thursday and follow it up against a solid team that's playing well, protecting your home court. It's a big test for us to put two games back-to-back with the mindset we had tonight.''
This was, though, a starting point for a team trying to regroup. Since their last decisive home win, 102-88 over Utah on Nov. 16, the Warriors have won three of five at Oracle. They've struggled in all five.
It was no coincidence that the game marked the return of wing Andre Iguodala, who missed 12 games with a strained hamstring. The Warriors were 5-7 without him and, moreover, they lacked cohesion and symmetry. They suffered at both ends of the court.
His return on Tuesday brought with it a sense of renewal. Their universe was right.
“He's a guy that makes it so much easier, with his ability to make plays, read and react,'' Jackson said. “We missed him and we are glad to have him back.''
From the start it was clear, too, that the Warriors were mining a power beyond that which Iguodala supplied. They also were responding to Jackson's statements on Sunday questioning their desire – sentiments with which they did not argue.
“We knew this was a game we had to have,'' power forward David Lee said. “We had a good practice (Monday) and we just tried to put the last few games behind us.''
One of the things missing before Tuesday was consistent offense from someone other than Curry. He has been fabulous, on a roll of 11 consecutive games in which he has scored at least 20 points – the longest such streak in the league this season.
Lee answered the call on Tuesday, with 21 points (on 10-of-15 shooting), adding 17 rebounds to lift the Warriors to 14-12 this season.
THE GOOD: Lee played with a fire and determination rarely seen of late. Rather than settle for his suddenly inconsistent midrange jumper, he recognized a weak Pelicans interior defense – big man Anthony Davis was out with a fractured hand – and feasted.
Curry continues his stellar scoring with a game-high 28 points (on 11-of-19 shooting). Furthermore, he added 12 assists with only three turnovers. It was, on the whole, one of his more complete games.
THE BAD: The bench. With an 87-64 lead late in the third quarter, Jackson turned the game over to the subs. They promptly flubbed it. New Orleans went on a 16-6 run, closing to 93-80 with 5:54 left, forcing Jackson to call timeout and reinsert his starters.
THE TAKE: Iguodala was, as always, a force far beyond his statistics. He sees the court, reads and reacts. He pressures offenses and defenses. The Warrior are dramatically better for having someone who delivers, at the highest level, whatever is needed at any particular time. The combination of Iguodala and sustained effort makes the Warriors too much for mediocre teams and dangerous for even the best of squads.