With a comeback effort not forthcoming, Steve Kerr was left to empty his bench over the final two minutes of the Golden State Warriors' 114-102 loss to the Miami Heat on Thursday night.
While Lester Quinones and Jerome Robinson saw garbage time, the third of Golden State's two-way contracted players, Usman Garuba, was nowhere to be seen. That's because the 21-year-old was plying his trade in the G League, with the Santa Cruz Warriors suffering the same fate in a 105-102 loss to the Heat's affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce.
Golden State Warriors' two-way center Usman Garuba grabbed 18 rebounds in Santa Cruz's three-point loss on Thursday
Garuba had a monster performance in the low-scoring game, stuffing the box score with 16 points, 18 rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks in 30 minutes of play. Eight of his 18 boards came on the offensive end, while Garuba was also a remarkable +25 in the defeat.
The Warriors would come to regret a disappointing first-quarter where they gave up 36 points and quickly fell to a double-digit deficit. They then erased a 14-point fourth-quarter margin to tie the game at 100 in the final 90 seconds, only for their comeback effort to go awry over the final few plays.
Pat Spencer, who was part of the Golden State training camp roster ahead of last season, had 22 points and 11 rebounds in 34 minutes. Another familiar name, Donovan Williams (part of training camp this season), also had 22 points, five rebounds and two assists.
Garuba was an intriguing signing when the Warriors acquired him on two-way deal, with the 6'8" big man having played 99 games across two years with the Houston Rockets after being taken with the 23rd overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft.
While he remains a fascinating prospect, as showcased in Thursday's G League outing, Garuba appears well out of Golden State's plans given the emergence of second-round pick Trayce Jackson-Davis. With the 23-year-old rookie now firmly in Steve Kerr's rotation, there appears little avenue for Garuba to come in and earn minutes over veteran players like Kevon Looney and Dario Saric.
With Jackson-Davis unlikely to be assigned to Santa Cruz ever again, Garuba does have the opportunity to eat up most of the center minutes in the G League. Thursday's game was his second 15+ rebound performance of the month, having tallied 18 points and 15 boards against the South Bay Lakers on December 12.
Now 11-6 in combined showcase and regular season games this season, Santa Cruz will look to bounceback when they host the Skyforce again on the second night of a back-to-back on Friday.