It may have been missing some stars from either team, but regardless, Saturday’s marquee matchup didn’t fail to disappoint as the Golden State Warriors and Brooklyn Nets went down to the wire.
Although Kyrie Irving threatened to break Warrior hearts with a dazzling display reminiscent of the 2016 NBA Finals, Golden State had just enough firepower to eke out a 110-106 win.
Often displaying scratchy, inconsistent form throughout a 7-game homestand, the Warriors finished with a 6-1 record after a hard-fought win over the Nets.
The Warriors looked in control on multiple occasions, twice giving up double-digit leads at Irving and the Nets set up an intense closing stanza.
After falling behind 11-5 in the opening stages, Andrew Wiggins produced a near virtuoso performance to lead the Warriors to an 11-point lead after 12 minutes. His 14-point, six-rebound, two-block quarter looked to stake his validity as a first-time All-Star, capping it with a vicious putback dunk.
But the Warriors’ offense stalled early in the second, scoring just 8 points in the opening 7 minutes. It allowed the Nets to navigate their way back from a 13 point deficit to take a 4-point lead.
Golden State did reassert themselves to close the half, putting on the clamps to hold a 7-point lead.
Even with the splash brothers having minimal impact scoring-wise, the Warriors seized full control by starting the half on a 16-4 run. But just when the Nets, minus Kevin Durant and James Harden, looked like a team on the tip of surrender, Irving inspired a monumental comeback with some insane shotmaking.
When James Johnson drilled a triple in the opening minute of the fourth, the Nets had climbed all the way back to take their first lead of the second half. Frankly put, the Warriors needed production from their much-celebrated backcourt, who, until that point, had combined for just 12 points.
They got exactly that, even if the final box score showed they combined for just 10-32 from the field for the game. The two teams went toe-to-toe down the stretch, with the margin never extending beyond five over the final 12 minutes.
The Warriors looked in control before an ill-advised loose ball foul from Kevon Looney sent Patty Mills to the free-throw line. Having already knocked down 6 threes, Mills sunk both to reduce the margin to one with 30 seconds remaining.
On the ensuing possession, Thompson relocated from a ghost screen, accepted Curry’s pass and knocked down his biggest three since return. Not to be forgotten, Irving hit a three quickly after the timeout. He had 32 points on the night to lead Brooklyn in the absence of his co-stars.
But with the game still in the balance, Irving carelessly fouled Thompson before the inbounds pass. It meant that the Warriors gained three free throws from the possession, allowing them to extend to a four-point lead rather than three.
Gary Payton II stole the ball on the final possession, running out the clock as the Warriors chalked up their 37th win of the season. Thompson and Curry had combined for 23 fourth-quarter points, their class coming through to steer a nervy ship.
A pessimist would look at the Nets, without Durant and Harden, and wonder how the Warriors let them get so close after their dominant position early in the third. An optimist would look at Curry and Thompson’s shooting struggles and be impressed by the team’s ability to come through.
Wiggins finished with 24 points and eight rebounds on 10-18 shooting, with Curry tallying 19 points, seven rebounds, eight assists, and three steals. It was part of another balanced scoring display as Jordan Poole finished with 17, with Thompson and Otto Porter Jr. having 16.
Golden State now heads on a Texas road trip, with back-to-back games against Houston and San Antonio starting on Monday.