From Steph Curry’s bravado to Draymond Green’s pluck to the resolve that spreads through the Warriors, there were many facets behind their great escape in the Great Salt Lake.
This 106-103 comeback win over the Utah Jazz on Monday night may not have developed if not for essential contributions from a couple guys rarely seen in headlines or highlights.
When the Warriors needed something significant from the last guard on their bench, Ian Clark, he delivered.
And when they desperately needed something atypical from veteran point guard Shaun Livingston, he also delivered.
This is how a team succeeds on the road with one of its starters (Harrison Barnes) out injured, while another (Andrew Bogut) fouls out in 22 minutes and yet a third key contributor (Andre Iguodala) is scoreless in 27 minutes.
“Hard fought win to start the road trip,” Curry said. “It was a tough environment against a team that plays the style they do. It was a big win for us. Good way to get the road trip started.”
The 19th consecutive win for the defending champs was not settled until Curry dropped in two free throws with 2.4 seconds remaining.
“You expect that to happen every night, regardless of how the game actually turns out,” Curry said of the tight contest. “You have to have that mindset. You have to be committed to how the rotation is. You have to be ready when the fourth quarter comes around and you come back in. Stay locked in. Stay focused. Rely on that preparation for those moments. It turned out well tonight. It was a good feeling.”
Though Curry, scoring 10 of his game-high 26 points in the fourth quarter, was the closer, with considerable assistance from Green, there were early indications the Jazz were primed for the upset.
Utah was step-for-step with the defending champs in the first half when Clark came off the bench and lit up his former team for 12 points – on four 3-pointers – in the final five minutes of the half, giving the Warriors a 53-48 lead at the break.
And when the Jazz (8-8) went up 92-90 midway through the fourth quarter, Livingston put the Warriors back in the lead by connecting on a 3-pointer – his first of the season – with 5:39 left. He followed that up 33 seconds later with a jumper that pushed the lead to three.
“Pulling out a good road win always feels good, especially the first game on a road trip,” Livingston said. “I think we’re confident moving forward. Obviously, this win feels good. We just have to ride the momentum.”
The victory kept intact the Warriors’ overall win streak (23), their road win streak (nine). It also gave the club the first perfect month (16-0) in franchise history.
Behind Gordon Hayward (24 points), Derrick Favors (23 points, 11 rebounds) and Alec Burks (19 points), Utah was stubborn enough to keep things tight until the end. The final margin was the closest for the Warriors this season.
“We knew it would be a tough game coming in here,’’ said Green, who finished with 20 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. “That’s a very good basketball club and guys who have been together for about three or four years now. Some guys even more. We knew that it would be a tough game.
“Everybody has just gotten used to us beating teams by 20. When we have a close game, we’re not surprised. We know that’s going to happen throughout the course of the season. I think we responded well.”
It helps to have the kind of depth the Warriors have. Two nights after Brandon Rush, inserted into the starting lineup for Barnes and scored 16 points, Clark and Livingston combined for 21.
With six games remaining on this trip, and every opponent gunning for them and their glossy record, the Warriors are going to need a few surprises to go along with their usual stars. This was just a start, according to interim coach Luke Walton.
“You set the tone with it,” he said, “but you let the other teams know that when we’re coming to town you’re going to have to take it from us. Nothing is going to be given away here.”