Rewind: O'Neal's vintage performance lifts W's past Nets

Rewind: O'Neal's vintage performance lifts W's past Nets
February 23, 2014, 1:15 pm
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We needed big energy and big effort in this big game from both Jermaine and Draymond, and those guys responded.
Mark Jackson

Programming note: Warriors-Pistons coverage starts Monday evening at 4:30 with Warriors Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.


OAKLAND – Maybe it's the stored energy that builds up during two months off the floor, watching your teammates but unable to join them.

Maybe it's the subconscious strength that comes with knowing your teammates now depend on you because, at least for now, there is no choice.

Or maybe Jermaine O'Neal is riding the wave of adrenaline-laced emotion that comes when the race has been long and the finish line suddenly comes into view.

Whatever it is that has allowed the 35-year-old center to recapture his youth at such a crucial time of the season, the Warriors surely would like to bottle it for at least another three months.

O'Neal summoned back-to-back jewels this week, punctuated by his 23-point, 13-rebound effort in a 91-86 win over the Nets on Saturday night that highlighted the Warriors' third consecutive victory.

"He was outstanding once again," coach Mark Jackson said of O'Neal, who returned on Feb. 4 after missing eight weeks due to wrist surgery.

"I haven't seen J.O. play like that since (he was in Indiana)," said Nets veteran Kevin Garnett, referring to O'Neal's prime years a nearly decade ago. "I'm glad he found the fountain of youth."

After playing 37 minutes in the 102-99 overtime win over Houston on Thursday, O'Neal came back for 34 minutes against Brooklyn. He duplicated his previous effort and exponentially increased his offensive production. Given that starting center Andrew Bogut has missed the past seven games, O'Neal suddenly is essential.

"At this point in the year, you've got to give whatever you've got and I said that's what I'm going to do," O'Neal said. "Coming back from the (All-Star) break, whatever this team needs me to give, if it's playing 37 minutes or it's playing five minutes, I'm going to be prepared and I'm going to be ready to help this team."

O'Neal's production was nearly matched by Draymond Green. Starting in place of David Lee at power forward, Green contributed 18 points (a career high), 11 rebounds and three steals. O'Neal and Green outscored and outrebounded the Brooklyn frontline – Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce and Garnett – which totaled 32 points and 14 rebounds.

"That's what this team is all about, guys stepping up and responding," Jackson said. "We needed big energy and big effort in this big game from both Jermaine and Draymond, and those guys responded."

Green is in his second season and expects to be around awhile. O'Neal is in his 18th season and nearing the end of his career.

"I don't know what next year is going to bring me," he said. "This year is all I can bank on, and I'm going to go as hard as I can – and I'm going to make sure my guys go as hard as they possibly can – and we'll see what happens."

What happened on Saturday was, from O'Neal, a performance beyond reasonable expectation, certainly for a body with so much NBA mileage.

THE GOOD: O'Neal and Green delivered in the clutch, which speaks volumes about the capabilities of the team's bench.

Backup point guard Steve Blake, making his second appearance with the team, made key contributions and finished with six points and five assists.

The defense generally was good but particularly so in the third quarter, when the Warriors held the Nets to 32-percent shooting.

THE BAD: Horrid shooting by Harrison Barnes (1-of-7) and Jordan Crawford (2-for-10), with Klay Thompson (3 of 10) not much better. Green's low percentage (5-of-16 shooting, for 31.3 percent) was offset by his 8-for-10 night from the line.

THE TAKE: The Warriors (34-22) have won three straight for the first time in six weeks. They've done all of it without Bogut, and on Saturday without Lee. At a pivotal time, they're showing a renewed mental toughness. That's something they're going to need to reach their goal of at least 50 wins.

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