The Golden State Warriors entered the United Center on Friday night in absolute dire need of a win, after a brutal and embarrassing home trip. And in an encouraging and delightfully entertaining matchup, the Warriors did exactly that, beating the Chicago Bulls 140-131.
It started out strangely. With the Dubs down four key rotation players, Steve Kerr turned to a very unexpected and odd lineup, starting Dario Šarić and the struggling Andrew Wiggins alongside Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Kevon Looney. It had mixed results, but the Warriors looked good out of the gates. Wiggins played with energy we haven’t seen from him quite some time, as he and Šarić both dropped in nine points in the quarter. As we’ve grown accustomed to, things really took off when the bench got on the court, with Jonathan Kuminga and Trayce Jackson-Davis providing all sorts of energy.
Golden State was executing well and playing hard — they had five offensive rebounds and just one turnover — but between a scoreless frame from Curry and some hot shooters on Chicago’s side, the Dubs led by just three points.
Then they looked like they might take over. A 10-0 run — led by excellence from Kuminga — spanned both quarters, and the Warriors had an earl 38-30 lead in the second. With the team so shorthanded, we even saw some minutes from Jerome Robinson, who made the most of them.
But the Bulls came roaring back, retook the lead, and then ran away with it. Chicago simply could not miss, and while the Warriors weren’t playing perfect defense, it was more a result of good offense beats good defense than an indictment of Golden State’s play. Coby White punctuated perhaps the best half of his career (21 points, 5-for-6 shooting from deep) with a three in the waning seconds, and despite all the encouraging moments, the Warriors trailed 75-62 at the half, following a 45-point Chicago quarter in which they shot 18-for-23.
Golden State, however, would not be outdone. Anything you can do, I can do better is what they said. Curry and Thompson had scored just 13 combined points in the first half, but made it clear that wouldn’t be repeated in the second act. The third quarter began with back-to-back threes from Thompson, causing Chicago to call a quick timeout. Klay scored the first eight points of the quarter for the Dubs, which fueled a 16-4 lead. Barely five minutes into the frame, Wiggins laid the ball in to tie the game.
From there it was all gas, no brakes for the rest of the quarter. They took the lead when Curry was hacked going to the hoop, didn’t get a foul call, could not believe it, and then splashed home a three on the ensuing inbounds. Kuminga and Jackson-Davis once again provided brilliance, and the oft-maligned Kuminga-Wiggins pairing even saw some successful time together.
It was a stunning 48-20 frame, in which Golden State turned a 13-point deficit into a 15-point lead. And best of all? No turnovers.
But the Bulls, on a night where they were honoring the 1995-96 squad, wouldn’t go away easily, and once again found some unreal shot-making ability in the fourth quarter. They quickly made it a single-digit game, thanks in part to Golden State missing a few easy shot. Chicago rattled off a 10-0 run to make it a six-point game, but a dynamic sequence pushed the lead back to twelve: a bail-out floater by Wiggins, a stop on defense, an offensive rebound and a free throw by Šarić, a steal by Wiggins and Curry, an offensive rebound by Brandin Podziemski, and a three by Curry.
That was the way the frame went. The Bulls would make it tense, and then the Warriors — usually Curry and Thompson, or a big offensive rebound from Wiggins — would answer. The closing lineup saw Wiggins and Kuminga again successfully sharing the court as the Dubs secured an encouraging 140-131 victory.
Wiggins had perhaps his best game of the year, with an efficient 17 points, five rebounds, a season-high eight assists, and strong defense. Thompson had one of his best showings as well, with a hyper-efficient 30 points to go along with six rebounds and six assists. Curry overcame his slow start to finish with 27 points and nine assists, while Kuminga made all four of his three-pointers, and finished with 24 points and five rebounds. Jackson-Davis and Šarić made it six Warriors in double figures, as they had a season-best five turnovers.
The extremely-good Milwaukee Bucks await in under 24 hours, but for now the Dubs are back where they need to be: in the win column.