CHICAGO — After two of the most disappointing losses of the season, the Warriors walked into United Center Friday night desperate for more than a moral victory.
The Warriors beat to the Bulls, 100-98, to salvage a five-city trip during which they went 1-4. After fading in the second half of the last two games, losing by a combined 40 points to sub-.500 teams, the Warriors (5-19) were in position to win late, and executed.
“Our guys have been fighting hard and competing all season long. The last two games, we sort of got off track. I think they knew that and they took that to heart,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said. “Everyone who stepped on the floor tonight came out there with a purpose, and they competed together and they earned the win. I’m really happy for the guys.”
With a one-point lead in the final few minutes, forward Draymond Green’s lob to center Willie Cauley-Stein extended the lead to three, which Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen quickly followed up with a 3-pointer from the top the arc to tie the game with 3:36 left. Neither team scored for the next two minutes, until Green’s free throw broke the tie with 1:26 remaining.
Green’s second lob, this one to forward Glenn Robinson III that served as the game winner, gave the Warriors a two-point lead with a minute left. On the Warriors’ next possession, guard D’Angelo Russell air-balled a shot and missed another after Robinson’s offensive rebound.
With the ball back, Bulls coach Jim Boylen called a timeout with 13 seconds left to set up for the final possession. Drawing an isolation against Robinson, Bulls guard Zach LaVine attempted a 30-footer that clanged off the front of the rim. Green came down with the rebound to secure the Warriors’ only win of a grueling trip that included games in Miami, Orlando, Atlanta and Charlotte.
Having been away from the Bay since the night before Thanksgiving, the Warriors looked forward to ending their trip on a high note as they completed shoot-around Friday morning.
Golden State got off to an urgent start in the first quarter. Russell’s back-to-back 3-pointers and forward Eric Paschall’s tipped pass preceding Robinson’s floater put the Warriors up 10-6 midway through the opening period. However, Chicago came back to reclaim a 28-23 lead after the first quarter.
The Warriors then opened the second quarter on a 14-3 run, shepherded by guards Ky Bowman and Alec Burks, to take a six-point lead. Again, the Bulls patiently took back the advantage, leading 51-50 after a tightly contested first half that featured nine lead changes.
In his second game back from a thumb injury that sidelined him for nine games, Russell struggled after his consecutive shots in the first quarter, failing to convert on another field goal in the game. He finished with seven points on 2-of-8 shooting, five assists and four turnovers in 29 minutes.
Robinson had one of his strongest performances of the season with 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting, seven rebounds and two steals, and came up with important rebounds in clutch time. Burks added 14 points to pace a 41-point bench effort that went six players deep.
Golden State entered the game having lost 15 of its last 17 games. As the final buzzer sounded, Green held onto the rebound for a few extra seconds, as if to make sure no one could take away the much-needed win. Teammates pounded Robinson’s chest, congratulating him on the hardy effort.
The win marked the first time in 16 games that the Warriors won after trailing after three quarters.
The Warriors will return to San Francisco with a softer schedule, and will play on the road only three more times in December. Having so far played more road games than any team in the NBA, the break, like Friday’s win, is well-earned.
1. The game-winning shot had shades of classic Warriors basketball.
An oop for the lead pic.twitter.com/cZPeBTMwcx
— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) December 7, 2019
Russell draws the double team in the high pick-and-roll with Green, who dives to the rim and finds Robinson with a lob over the top of the defense. Robinson, who envisions his eventual role on the Warriors as similar to the one Andre Iguodala played during the finals runs, has watched film of Iguodala getting to the dunker spot along the baseline and capitalizing on moments just like this.
“Playing that dunker spot is important,” Robinson said. “I’ve seen Andre do that in the past a million times, so I know Draymond is the type of player who can throw that pass.”
For comparison, here’s Iguodala finishing the same play in last season’s NBA Finals.
“I thought I saw Dre flying in the air but it was G,” Green said after the game. “Definitely some nostalgia.”
2. Bowman, Golden State’s undrafted rookie on a two-way contract, has used up 29 of his allotted 45 days of NBA service. On Friday, he often went toe-to-toe with Bulls guard Coby White, the seventh overall pick in June’s draft.
Bowman had eight points on 3-of-4 shooting, six assists and one turnover, and the Warriors outscored the Bulls by one point in the 21 minutes he was on the court. White finished with 14 points on 5-of-10 shooting, two assists and zero turnovers. In his 20 minutes, however, the Bulls were outscored by 10 points.
Bowman, 22, is three years older than White, 19. One game — or one season, for that matter — doesn’t account for a prospect’s upside. Still, the fact the Warriors found a player who can contribute at this level and arguably outplay a lottery pick further illustrates the need for them to find a way to keep him.
3. When Kerr was looking to get into coaching after five years as a broadcast analyst for TNT, his decision came down to the New York Knicks and the Warriors. The Knicks, who fired head coach David Fizdale on Friday, will be hiring their fifth coach in five years. Kerr, in that time, has been to five finals with the Warriors.
Despite entering Friday with the same amount of wins (4) as the Knicks, Kerr was never fearful of losing his job.
“If I had gone to New York, that would have been me, like, three years ago. I’m well aware of that. That’s just the way it goes,” Kerr said. “I think I made the right choice.”
Kerr and Fizdale have had different coaching experiences. Kerr got to coach several future hall of famers, while Fizdale quickly fizzled out in Memphis and New York. After his stint with the Grizzlies two years ago, Fizdale spent time with Kerr during the 2018 playoffs.
“I’ve got to know him over the years, and he’s a hell of a coach, but, as we know in this business, it’s extremely fragile, and your job is dependent on a lot of things when you’re a coach in this league,” Kerr said. “One is probably the talent that you get to coach, but, just as importantly, is the strength of the organization, the group around you.
“It takes a really strong organization to help coaches and help players get through difficult times. So, I’m very blessed to have that group around me here, and I know not every coach does.”
After Friday, the worst record in the league no longer belongs to the Warriors — it belongs to the Knicks.
Steve Kerr on the Knicks firing David Fizdale: “If I had gone to New York, that would have been me three years ago. … I think I made the right choice.” pic.twitter.com/zdJmtYLMow
— Wes Goldberg (@wcgoldberg) December 7, 2019