Although Indiana made a furious 17-4 run in the final five minutes to tie the game at 96, it was Klay Thompson who had the last laugh. After a key Warriors defensive stop with ten seconds left in regulation (Golden State played great defense and didn't allow Indiana to take a two-for-one), Thompson found George Hill on his back and the ball in his hands, time winding down. This time, the isolation post-up finally worked out: Thompson's game-winning, isolation post-up, fadeaway jumper over George Hill with under a second left gave the Warriors a mammoth victory over Indiana 98-96.
This marks Golden State's first win in Indiana since February 2007, and just the fourth time Indiana has been defeated at home this season. Also, the Warriors now become the first Western Conference team this season to defeat Indiana, the team with the best record in the NBA, and Miami, the two-time defending champions, on the road. Just a huge victory for the Warriors.
Scoring 16 of his 25 in the fourth quarter, Klay Thompson caught fire and pushed Golden State to a sizable cushion in the final period. Without the other starters on the floor for the first 6:24 of the fourth, Klay and the bench (which outscored Indiana's bench 34-11) gave Golden State a double-figure lead with five minutes remaining. By shooting threes, crashing the glass, and sharing the ball, the Warriors built a 12-point lead with just about five minutes remaining.
However, Golden State nearly gave all away by (what else?) turning the ball over, isolations, and inefficient, ugly post-ups as Indiana made a comeback behind David West and Paul George. Paul George stripped Stephen Curry (who didn't score and committed three turnovers in the fourth quarter) twice during Indiana's 12-0 spurt that tied the game at 94 all. Despite shooting just 8-23 for the game, George came up huge down the stretch for Indiana with key buckets, assists, and defensive plays - unfortunately for Indiana, he rimmed out a deep 3-pointer that would have won it for the Pacers.
The Warriors victory couldn't have happened without the recent emergence of the bench. Steve Blake has been a huge addition to the second unit as a heady veteran leader at the backup point guard position, and Draymond Green has been fantastic all season. Green, who had ten points, seven rebounds, three assists, and a steal, made big plays all game - and broke out of his three-point slump, hitting 50% from distance tonight after making just two of his previous 24 coming into tonight. Harrison Barnes was excellent tonight as well, grabbing five boards and scoring 10 points on a variety of plays - three-pointers, acrobatic drives to the hole, and going perfect from the line as well. Though Blake didn't score, he finished +7 and had six assists to just one turnover.
The starting lineup actually was quite mediocre tonight. Andre Iguodala, who along with Thompson and Barnes played amazing defense on MVP candidate Paul George, had just six points, two rebounds, and one assist as he played limited minutes apparently due to an aggravated finger injury. David Lee picked up two early fouls, was dominated inside by bruiser David West (who went for 23 points), and was never really able to find a rhythm, finishing with just 11 points and five rebounds. Andrew Bogut, also plagued by foul trouble, played good defense on and out-rebounded Roy Hibbert, was active on the glass and had three blocked shots, but didn't really contribute anything offensively.
Stephen Curry played terrifically throughout the first three quarters and finished with a solid all-around line of 19 points, eight rebounds, and six assists. However, as good as he played in the first three quarters against Indiana's number one ranked defense, he played just as poorly in the fourth. Three of his four total turnovers came in the fourth quarter alone and allowed Indiana to tie the game, scoreless in the final period, and just 7-18 from the field. Though Curry sat for over half the final period and this no doubt affected his rhythm (as did being guarded by All-World defender Paul George down the stretch), this increased rest (just 32 minutes) allowed Curry to rest up somewhat for the last game of the road trip tomorrow at Boston.
Warrior Wonder: Klay Thompson
Crunch time, Thompson had the ball in his hands in the biggest possession and he converted, big-time. The game-winner, sixteen of his 25 points in the fourth against the number one defense in the best league in the world, on the road, Thompson was the best player on the court when it mattered at the end. The 6-7 guard showcased his entire, expanded offensive game and underrated defensive abilities in one of the finest games of his career.
Up Next: At Boston
The final game of the six-game road trip, Golden State should come out strong in order to quickly demoralize the lowly Celtics, owners of the fourth-worst record in the entire NBA. Losers of eight of their last ten games, injured, crushed, and battered, Boston is undergoing a drastic transition from Hall of Famers leading the Celtics to glory, to its young players forced to endure a terrible season in hopes of future victories. Unfortunately for the Celtics, this is the NBA, not Little League. They won't get condolences from a Warriors squad looking to make this season special. This is a trap game after the heart-stopping victory over Indiana, nevertheless, Golden State, as the much more talented, better gelled, and simply superior team, should quickly and effortlessly blow the sinking Celtics right out of the water.