Warriors grind out win against Celtics in homecoming
Harrison Barnes scored just one point as the Warriors bench was outscored by Celtics reserves 31-21. (USATSI)
OAKLAND -- With hazy eyes, heavy tongues and heavier legs, the Warriors summoned the energy to win once more before collapsing into their first two-day respite since training camp opened last September.
Some games are won on skill, others on effort and a few with luck. The Warriors' 99-97 win over the Celtics on Friday night at Oracle Arena was pure grit, grind and guts.
[RECAP: Warriors 99, Celtics 97]
"It's huge," coach Mark Jackson said afterward. "I was tired today, so I know my guys were physically drained before the game.
"These are the games the good and great teams find a way to win. Then you can tell your body 'We can relax tomorrow and Sunday.' It's an opportunity to put one in the bank. Now it's recovery time."
Jackson gave the Warriors Saturday and Sunday off largely because no NBA team had played more games through Friday. Their 23 road games represent a league high. And, you may recall, they spent half the preseason on the other side of the globe in what amounted to a 10-day ambassador's mission in China.
Such literal and physical baggage also weighs on the mind, which is why this win was rather impressive despite the reeling opponent (Boston entered the arena lugging a 13-23 record and a six-game losing streak).
"Whether it was Boston or the worst team in the league or one of the best teams in the league or a middle-of-the-road team, it didn't matter," center Andrew Bogut said. "We were playing more against ourselves tonight than an opponent."
The game-winning shot came off the hands of Stephen Curry, a flawless 22-foot jumper by a man who had looked so weary in missing 11 of his first 17 shots. Curry wasn't the only one in the grip of fatigue. The Warriors started well enough on offense, making 13 of their first 26 shots. They made 25 of their next 66.
Among the starters, only Andre Iguodala managed to shoot at least 50 percent, making 9 of 14 shots. Iguodala sparked rallies and made an impact at both ends. The Warriors, now 25-14, leaned on him for most of the game. He was the difference.
"He carried us for a great stretch of that game by making plays," Jackson said. "There's no secret that is why we brought him in. The things he does night in and night out, can't put a price tag on that."
THE GOOD: Iguodala's timely playmaking and shotmaking, along with his numbers: 22 points, seven assists, five rebounds and three steals.
Curry's game-winner, drained so cleanly the net barely moved.
THE BAD: The bench, aside from some critical plays by big man Marreese Speights, who accounted for 13 of the 21 points scored by the backups. Boston's bench scored 31 points.
THE TAKE: There have been times over the years, and even this season, when it was easy to question the toughness of the Warriors. They'd lose focus, lose tenacity or go through a lazy stretch. This victory was a potent rebuttal of that criticism. Coming off a long and prosperous road trip and knowing the next game was four days away, the Warriors furrowed their brows, dug in and didn't stop until victory was theirs. It was an impressive exercise in mental toughness.