Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, Jermaine O'Neal, and David Lee were all rested. Klay Thompson started but played just eight minutes, as Mark Jackson rested the starters in the last game of the season.
The reserves got their chance to shine, and boy did they, in a high-scoring 116-112 victory to end the regular season.
Jordan Crawford and Harrison Barnes set career-high with 41 and 30 points, respectively; Steve Blake had 15 assists along with a career-high seven steals; and the players at the very end of the bench finally played extended minutes to show Mark Jackson they deserved to play meaningful minutes in the postseason. Hilton Armstrong, the D-League call-up, provided energy and athleticism in adding his first career double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
While this game was meaningless in terms of the standings, as the Warriors were set as the sixth seed before the game even began, it could be important in giving the bench players confidence heading into the playoffs. The bench shot just 3-28 the last time Golden State played the Clippers and was a big reason Golden State lost the game after holding an early lead. If the Warriors could get anything even remotely resembling tonight's output, it could go a long way towards pulling the upset as the lower seed without Andrew Bogut.
We all know that Barnes has colossally struggled this season, but his career-high 30 points tonight could make him more comfortable heading into the games that really, truly matter.
Barnes was fantastic tonight (free throw issues aside, just 5-12) as he played all 48 minutes, attacking the basket and ferociously finishing with massive dunks in traffic unlike anything we've seen from him this season. He moved without without the ball excellently, and used his size and strength to dominate smaller players and his speed and athleticism to feast on larger, slower forwards. Perhaps playing Denver, the foe whom Barnes crushed last postseason - which caused all sorts of unrealistic predictions for him this season - could get Barnes back on track against the Clippers. Golden State will certainly need Barnes to produce if the Warriors have any shot of knocking off the favored Clippers.
Warrior Wonder: Jordan Crawford
Crawford set a career-high with 41 points and was the catalyst for the offense with Stephen Curry out. Crawford hit from seemingly everywhere on the floor, getting to the rim at will and hitting open and contested shots alike. If Crawford can get hot against the Clippers, it could possibly tilt the pendulum away from Los Angeles and towards Golden State. He's important in these next few games as a guy who can score points in a hurry off the bench, something the Warriors will desperately need.
This season marked a series of highs unseen in a long time for a franchise seemingly on its way to becoming one of the dregs of the NBA not three years ago.
Curry became the first Warrior to start the All-Star Game in nearly 20 years, as he emerged into a true superstar, putting up ludicrous stat lines seemingly every night, finishing with four triple-doubles, just the first Warrior since freaking Wilt Chamberlain to accomplish that feat. Leading the NBA in three-pointers again; 20 point, 10 assist games, 30-10 games, 30-15 games, and being the catalyst for a Warriors offense that relied on him night after night after night to produce everything offensively, Curry took his game to a whole new level, emerging as one of the best and most valuable players in the entire league.
Andre Iguodala, a healthy Andrew Bogut, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson were the central reasons the Warriors finished with a defense unfathomably ranked in the top five in defensive efficiency. Iguodala and Bogut received consideration for the Defensive Player of the Year award, and Green and Thompson made massive strides as wings who could guard three or even four positions extremely well. A top five defense for this team? Unbelievable, I know. It happened.
The Warriors won 50 games for the first time since the glory days of the Run-TMC era in 1991, finishing with 51 wins, the fifth time Golden State has reached the fifty-win plateau in franchise history. The Warriors went on a ten-game winning streak midway through the season that validated their status as contenders in an unbelievebly tough Western Conference. Golden State beat top Eastern Conference teams Miami and Indiana in dominant showings, engaged in three thrillers with Oklahoma CIty, played on Christmas and outlasted the rival Clippers in a raucous atmosphere at Oracle; Iguodala and Curry hit numerous game-winners, and the Warriors rode the momentum from a blazing start to one of the best regular seasons in franchise history.
Up Next: Saturday @ Los Angeles Clippers
Game 1 of the First Round. Against the Rival Los Angeles Clippers. Saturday, ABC, 12:30 PM.
It's The Playoffs. Let's Get Excited.
This is going to be awesome.