Warriors' bench finally joins the party

Bazemore: 'Second unit starting to trust each other'

Warriors' bench finally joins the party
January 1, 2014, 3:15 pm
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Kent Bazemore led all Warriors' reserves with 12 points in their 94-81 win over the Magic on Tuesday night. (AP)

The joy spread this time, going from one end of the bench to the other. That's what can happen when even an area of lingering concern delivers satisfaction.

[RELATED: Instant Replay: Warriors close out 2013 with win over Magic]

So many times this season, the Warriors have not been able to trust their bench. While the starters generally have been remarkable, the bench often has been uneven, if not downright atrocious. Not so in Tuesday's 94-81 win at Orlando.

With the Warriors up by 15 (74-59) at the end of the three quarters, coach Mark Jackson summoned his reserves. They responded splendidly, using the first half of the final quarter to kick the margin to 22 (91-69) with 6:03 left in the game.

"We're all getting used to each other,'' said reserve big man Marreese Speights. "It took a little time, but we're finally getting used to each other and we're getting the opportunity to go out there since coach is trusting us every game, more and more.''

Speights, who in recent weeks has made visible improvement, finished with 10 points and six rebounds in 20 minutes. Guard Kent Bazemore delivered 12 points, three assists and two rebounds in 17 minutes. Forward Draymond Green, the most consistent reserve, sprinkled the stat sheet with 6 points, nine rebounds, four blocks, two assists and two steals in 22 minutes.

It was defense, however, that allowed the Warriors to stretch the lead before a couple of turnovers and a bunch of missed shots in the final, garbage-time minutes allowed the Magic to close the gap.

"We don’t necessarily have to boost the lead, but we have to maintain it,'' Green said. "And the way we maintain it is with our energy level o the defensive end. When we're playing well on the defensive end as a second unit – which is what that unit really has – then all of a sudden I get a couple buckets, Mo Speights gets it going on the offensive end, Harrison (Barnes) gets a couple buckets and Kent gets it going on the offensive end. But we feed off our defense.''

It was the kind of bench performance that allowed Jackson to sleep better. The coach has openly expressed past disappointment by reinserting the starters in the late going or calling out the subs afterward.

"Our starters play a lot of minutes – a lot of heavy minutes,'' Jackson said. "So it's important that whenever we have the opportunity to take care of business, we do so and get quality minutes for the reserves.''

Mission accomplished on Tuesday.

Green was all over the place at both ends. Starting power forward David Lee started the game in a sprint, pushing the Warriors to early lead they never lost. The Warriors owned the glass and the paint early and the Magic never recovered.

Turnovers, 17 of them. Stephen Curry was guilty of six, Klay Thompson four and Lee three.

The Warriors are 20-13 overall but 15-3 with their regular starting lineup: Andrew Bogut at center, Andre Iguodala and Lee at forwards, Curry and Thompson at guards. For the Dubs to prosper, that lineup must stay healthy. That's a lot easier to do if they can turn games over to a reliable bench. The formula worked nicely in this game.

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