The Golden State Warriors came out on top 110-106 against the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday. The Nets were missing both Kevin Durant and James Harden but had star guard Kyrie Irving available even though he remains unvaccinated. Golden State, of course, continued missing forward Draymond Green.
The Splash Brothers found a rhythm over their last two games, but their recent hot stretch came crashing down on Saturday. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson combined to shoot 4-for-23 from the field and just 2-for-14 from three. Despite their struggles, the Warriors controlled the game early because of recent All-Star starter selection Andrew Wiggins.
Wiggins made the All-Star team because he has been a fantastic catch-and-shoot shooter, secondary scorer, and perimeter defender for Golden State this season. Supported by one of the largest fanbases in the NBA, Wiggins got plenty of support from Dubs Nation. However, the Wiggins on display against the Nets was better than that. It was the Wiggins that makes onlookers believe he will live up to the lofty expectations that have followed him since he was the first overall pick.
Wiggins led the Warriors charge on both ends in the first quarter, recording 14 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals, and 2 blocks. Golden State held the Nets to just 20 points, and Wiggins carried the offense to build a 31-20 lead.
The Warriors' defense faded in the second quarter, and the Nets closed the gap. Jordan Poole stepped up off the bench to score 10 points in the first half, which helped the Dubs maintain the lead.
Golden State led 54-47 at the half. Wiggins and Gary Payton II were +20, Poole was +16, Curry and Thompson were both -10 or worse. It's rare that the Splash Brothers deviate so significantly from the rest of the team, but Wiggins was game-changing good.
Wiggins' offensive attack was multifaceted. He knocked down midrange fadeaways, stepback threes, and finished several drives inside. When the Nets' offense went cold in the third quarter, the Dubs built a 19-point lead. This time, though, Irving answered.
Patty Mills and Irving each scored 11 points in the first half, but neither found much success from the field. However, Kyrie found his rhythm, scoring off the dribble with ease. He scored 14 points in the third quarter and led the Nets on a 20-4 run to close the third. Entering the fourth quarter, Brooklyn was trailing just 78-76.
A James Johnson three momentarily gave the Nets an 81-78 lead in the first minute of the final quarter, but Curry and Poole answered with back-to-back unanswered threes. The Warriors were back ahead for a bit before back-to-back turnovers by Curry helped the Nets tie things up at 93.
Some teams might have been tempted to force the offense to run through Wiggins at that point in the game, but the Dubs stuck by what they do best. Curry and Klay each knocked down perimeter jump shots to give them another lead.
A couple of minutes later, with the Warriors leading 98-97, Thompson hauled in a rebound, dribbled downcourt, and knocked down a heavily contested fadeaway jumper. Johnson missed a three on the other end, Curry drew a foul, knocked down two free throws, and gave the Dubs a 102-97 lead.
The Nets answered with a reverse layup by Johnson to make it a one-possession game. Curry had a driving layup blocked by Kessler Edwards that set Irving up for a layup on the other end that rimmed out. The Warriors got the rebound, Curry was fouled again, and the lead was quickly back up to five.
Some wasted possession and costly fouls brought the Nets back to within one, but with 13 seconds remaining, Thompson slipped a screen for Curry and knocked down a dagger three from the left-wing.
Or so everyone thought.
Out of a timeout by Nets head coach Steve Nash, Irving quickly knocked down a heavily contested three to make it a 107-106 game with 9 seconds remaining in regulation. Luckily for the Warriors, Thompson drew an away-from-the-play foul that gave Golden State one free throw and possession. They made all three, extending the lead to 110-106, and finally putting things away.
Irving and Mills each were more efficient in the second half. Mills finished with 22 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks. Irving recorded 27 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists, and 3 steals.
Warriors wing Otto Porter had another unheralded, but effective game starting for Green. He scored 16 points on just 9 field-goal attempts and had a game-high +21 plus/minus. Poole added 17 points off the bench. Curry was just 5-for-18 from the field but had 18 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists, and 3 steals.
Still, the best player on the floor was not a Splash Brother. It was not an unvaccinated guard known for his incredible ball handling. It was Andrew Wiggins. Even when he faded to the background of the Dubs offense in the fourth quarter, Wiggins was easily Golden State's best defender against Irving or Mills. Of course, it was not just his defensive efforts that helped the Warriors pull out the win. He racked up 24 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, and 3 blocks on 10-for-17 shooting from the field (4-for-7 from three).
The Warriors win over the Nets gives them a 6-1 record on their seven-game homestand. Now hoping to build on a five-game winning streak, the Warriors will travel to Houston to play the Rockets on Monday, January 31st at 5:00 PM Pacific Standard Time.
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