AKLAND — The Brooklyn Nets entered Oracle Arena on Saturday night having lost 15 straight and 20 of their past 21 games, sprinting away in the race for the NBA’s worst record.
The Warriors were missing Kevin Durant. But on this night, three other All-Stars — even at mostly half-speed — were plenty against a team full of fringe NBA rotation players.
The matchup between the NBA’s best and worst teams ended about as expected: 112-95 Warriors, an uninspired, forgettable win that produced a noteworthy feat. With the victory, Golden State became the quickest team in NBA history to clinch a playoff spot — February 25th — beating their own record from last season’s 73-win campaign (February 27th).
“I’m really proud of that, to be honest,” Thompson said. “Got here my first year and we hadn’t been in the playoffs since 2007 and, before that, since 1994. So to do it five years in a row, can’t take that for granted. An amazing feat. Hopefully we can do it until our career is over.”
Durant missed the game with a left hand injury suffered during a hard fall against the Clippers. He’s expected to return on Monday in Philadelphia, but without him (or much scoring punch from the role players) against the Nets, Steph Curry was forced to shoulder a heavier burden.
Curry got the Warriors off to a hot start in the first quarter, bagging three 3s, scoring 13 points and handing out four assists. There wasn’t much life elsewhere among Warriors players, but JaVale McGee did give Golden State a boost of the bench.
McGee entered midway through the first quarter to a loud ovation — the Oracle crowd showing him needed appreciation after a dramatic few days for the reserve big man in his online feud with Shaquille O’Neal. McGee responded with a high-energy first quarter, chasing down three offensive rebounds on one possession and hammering through an alley-oop dunk. In all, McGee finished with seven points and nine rebounds in 12 minutes.
“I definitely feel like I’ve been adding a run the floor option and above the rim option,” McGee said.
The Warriors were up 32-28 at the end of the first quarter and 62-51 at half. They spiked that lead up to 19 early in the third quarter and looked on their way to a huge blowout and a batch of rest for their stars down the stretch. But the Nets maintained energy, while the Warriors attention span seemed a bit short with a 9-48 team in town.
Draymond Green in particular looked out of it on Saturday night. Green went 1-of-10 shooting and scored only five points. He is 8-of-31 the past six games, having not scored in double-digits in any of them.
With each successive miss against the Nets, Green looked increasingly frustrated, slogging his way back down the court as Nets sprinted by him for an occasional transition bucket to remain in it.
“Just wasn’t his night,” Kerr said.
Kerr pulled Green for good early in the fourth quarter, letting others finish out the win that never felt in danger, but remained closer than it probably should have.
“Went with a different rotation, different lineup,” Kerr said. “McAdoo gave us good energy. No big deal.”
Brooklyn cut it to seven at one point in the fourth quarter, but Curry sensed some brief trouble and took over to close it out. Curry had eight points in the closing quarter, including a needed fadeaway at the shot clock buzzer to break a dry spell and a nifty drive and layup late to essentially seal the win.
He finished with 27 points, Klay Thompson chipped in 24 and no other Warrior reached double-digits, but no one is likely to remember this game a few years or even weeks from now, except for the fact that it was the night the Warriors became the quickest team in NBA history to clinch a playoff berth.
“Wasn’t a great night, but it was a solid night,” Kerr said. “We did exactly what we needed to do: Play a lot of people and win the game and now we head off on the road tomorrow.”
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