Neither the SF Board of Supervisors of the Department of Public Health could stop unvaccinated Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving from playing in Saturday’s game against the Golden State Warriors. And in the second half, no one on the Warriors could stop Kyrie either. But Steph Curry and Klay Thompson did just enough down the stretch to hold off Irving - and local hero Patty Mills - and escape with a 110-106 victory.
Andrew Wiggins answered his All-Star critics with a 24-point effort, including eight rebounds, three steals, and two blocks. Let’s see Rudy Gobert knock down four three-pointers, haters! Curry finished with 19 points, Thompson had 16, Jordan Poole had 17 off the bench, and Otto Porter Jr. chipped in a huge 16 points. The Ground-Bound Mound of Rebound, Kevon Looney, grabbed 15 boards in a game where the rebounding battles were ferocious.
Irving famously refuses to get vaccinated, but in the first half, he was taking plenty of questionable shots. In the second half, he clearly did his own research on the Warriors defense and scored 21 points, finishing with 32 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists, plus three steals. He gets almost as fired up playing the Warriors as he does complaining about Dr. Fauci! Olympic bronze medalist Patty Mills, the pride of Moraga, California, had 24 points on six three-pointers, James Johnson scored 14 off the bench, and Blake Griffin had eight points, thanking his lucky stars that Draymond Green wasn’t there to shut him down again.
The Warriors looked like they might run away with this game at two different points early on, leading by 13 points in the second quarter and by 19 midway through the third quarter, before letting the Nets retake the lead each time. After the Nets tied it up again midway through the final quarter, the Warriors leaned on the Splash Brothers to bring it home. Thompson and Curry scored all of the team’s points, 17 in all, in the final seven minutes of the game to just barely eke out the win, and finish their home stand with a 6-1 record.
Going into the fourth, it had been a rough night for the Brothers Splash. They had just 12 points on a combined 4-for-23 from the field and 2-for-14 from three-point range. In the fourth? They shot 6-for-9, hit three three-pointers, and went a perfect 8-for-8 from the free throw line, for 23 points.
The late run started when Curry and Mills traded three-pointers to leave the game tied at 96-all. Thompson then hit a tough jumper to give the Warriors a lead they would never relinquish, although they came damn close.
Leading 100-97, Curry got rookie Kessler Edwards (mostly sensational on defense, give this man a real contract, Brooklyn!) to leave his feet, then leapt into him to get two free throws on his subsequent pass. Look, that play isn’t supposed to be called a foul anymore, but Brooklyn employs James Harden, so they have no business complaining about cheap fouls. Sowing, reaping, etc.
On the subsequent possession, three players swarmed Kyrie on a drive, and he hit James Johnson for an easy layup to cut the lead to three. On the other end, Edwards blocked Curry’s layup, and on the subsequent break Irving’s layup juuuuust rimmed out. James Johnson tried to foul Otto Porter Jr. but OPJ dumped it off to Curry first, who sank both foul shots.
Up five with less than a minute left, the game still wasn’t over. Curry fouled Irving thirty feet from the basket, and Kyrie hit both freebies. The Warriors drained the clock, but after Wiggins missed a three, Kevon Looney made an even worse foul on the rebound. That sent 88% free throw shooter to the line, a free two-point, zero-second offensive possession for Brooklyn, and the lead was down to one.
Then, it was Klay Thompson time. While Edwards had some defensive highlights, this time he got confused. When he followed Steph, Klay calmly sank a dagger three to put the game out of reach. Or so he thought. After a timeout, Kyrie drilled a leaning, leaping three over the outstretched arms of Looney to cut the lead to one again.
On the inbounds play, controversy! As the Warriors waited to inbound the ball, Irving crashed into Thompson, knocking him down before Otto Porter threw his pass. That’s an away-from-play foul, and at the end of the game, it means one free throw and the ball. Honestly, it’s a pretty blatant foul - Kyrie is holding Thompson’s jersey, and he sticks his foot in front of Klay’s. The only reason it was remotely controversial was the commentary from blathering failed NBA coach Jeff Van Gundy, who loudly insisted it wasn’t a foul. Look, Van Gundy seems to dislike the Warriors, or at least he’s sick of them, but to his credit, this was one of the rare times he was describing game action and not work shopping his crappy observational comedy act on an NBA telecast.
Steve Nash on not challenging the foul call on Kyrie: "I'll get somebody in trouble if I say what I saw. A little bird said don't challenge."— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) January 30, 2022
Kyrie: "That's going to be foul any day of the week, any game. Sorry." pic.twitter.com/365oOw9CAn
Why didn’t Steve Nash use a challenge? Because it was an obvious foul, and a referee quietly told him as much. Kyrie agreed after seeing the video evidence, although video evidence isn’t enough to convince him of Earth’s roundness. Steph and Klay closed things out with free throws, and then Gary Payton II really closed it out with a steal and another unique celebration.
GPII ended the game as only he could pic.twitter.com/LwjxcQavZ6— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) January 30, 2022
It’s not a surprise that Payton stole the ball at the end of a quarter. The only surprise is that Jordan Poole didn’t run up behind him and place a ball on the ground himself.
The Warriors’ struggles were threefold: One, they couldn’t contain Kyrie Irving in the second half. The Nets actually outscored the Warriors for the 40 minutes Kyrie was in the game, despite his lack of help from the non-Australians on his team. Two, Steph and Klay struggled with their shots early, one game after they were scorching-hot from long-range. Three, the bench lineups got smoked. The Warriors led by 18 points when Thompson and Porter were subbed out in the middle of the third. Brooklyn immediately went on a 9-0 run, helped by two Curry misses and a turnover. Things didn’t get any better when Jonathan Kuminga and Damion Lee entered the game, as the Nets got layup after layup. Overall, the 3rd quarter - usually the Warriors’ favorite time of the game - ended on a 20-4 Brooklyn run, and a scant 78-76 lead.
Nemanja Bjelica missed the game with back spams, joining Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala on the bench, though Andre was very visible as an unofficial assistant coach. That meant playing time for Juan Toscano-Anderson, who appears to be in the middle of a crisis of confidence. He still plays with energy, still delivers his requisite one offensive foul each game, but he’s tentative near the hoop, never more obviously where he passed out of a wide-open layup, Ben Simmons-style, to a guy who wasn’t especially open at the arc.
The Dubs’ third-quarter run was led by a parade of layups, engineered by Curry, who found Porter three times for layups during a 10-2 run.
Klay didn’t throw any behind-the-back gems last night, but he did find Kuminga for a sweet dunk.
Early in the game, Andrew Wiggins was playing like he’d read a lot of tweets complaining about his All-Star selection. In the first quarter he scored 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting, plus six rebounds, two steals, and two blocks. In your face, Paul George, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Carmelo Anthony! He also validated Mark Jackson’s favorite basketball maxim with this big shot.
The short-handed Nets were missing two-thirds of their Big Three, with Kevin Durant still out with a knee sprain and James Harden missing last night’s game with an injured hand. Kyrie alone was enough to put a scare in the Warriors, so if Brooklyn ever gets their full squad together, they should be scary. As things stand now, they may not have home-court advantage at all in the playoffs.
In a two-week stretch without Draymond Green or much long-distance accuracy from Steph Curry, the Warriors nonetheless took six of seven games. Next up is a quick Texas two-fer, a Monday-Tuesday back-to-back with Houston and San Antonio.