Warriors hold off Jazz 102-88 after O’Neal injury

Just about everything had gone as planned for the Golden State
Warriors at home this season until 11:26 remained in the fourth
quarter against the Utah Jazz on Saturday night.

Backup center Jermaine O’Neal slipped along the baseline,
spraining his right knee and straining his right groin. The
announced sellout crowd of 19,596 hushed, and players and coaches
huddled over O’Neal before he was helped off the court.

It was far more drama than the Warriors wanted against the NBA’s
worst team. Just as they have in the four previous games at home,
though, they responded.

Klay Thompson led the way with 25 points, and five others scored
in double digits in an all-around effort that helped the Warriors
hold off the Jazz 102-88 for their third straight victory – though
perhaps its costliest one.

”Jermaine means a lot to this basketball team. He has a voice
in the locker room, and we had to regroup,” Warriors coach Mark
Jackson said. ”It’s never fun or easy looking at a teammate go
down like that. So we pray that everything’s fine with him. At the
end of the day, we have to have guys that step up and be
ready.”

O’Neal will have additional tests on Sunday. The Warriors play
at Utah on Monday night, when they hope to duplicate a performance
in which they never trailed.

Stephen Curry had 15 points and 11 assists, Andrew Bogut added
12 points and 11 rebounds, David Lee scored 13 and Harrison Barnes
chipped in 11 points as the Warriors went ahead by 19 late in the
second quarter. The Jazz came back within seven in the third
quarter before Golden State pulled away by 20 late in the
fourth.

”It’s beautiful to watch when we play like that,” Thompson
said.

Derrick Favors finished with 17 points and seven rebounds, and
Gordon Hayward and Marvin Williams each scored 14 for the Jazz, who
fell to an NBA-worst 1-10.

”When you get down, especially to a team like Golden State that
can score very quickly, you put yourself in a tough position,”
said Williams, who wore a facemask to protect his broken nose
before tossing it aside in the second quarter.

Golden State (7-3) has taken advantage of a favorable home
schedule so far this season.

The Warriors are 5-0 at Oracle Arena, with all five opponents
playing the night before. Utah lost 91-82 to San Antonio on Friday
night in Salt Lake City.

Jackson cautioned his team not to take the Jazz lightly. With
the same formula of swarming defense and sharp shooting that has
carried the club since its surprising playoff run last spring,
Golden State seemed to quickly turn the contest into a predictable
rout.

The Warriors held leads of 27-13 after the first quarter and
51-34 at halftime, with Thompson and Iguodala each making three
3-pointers before the break. The defensive intensity stalled in the
third quarter, though, and the nothing-to-lose Jazz
capitalized.

Hayward’s 3-pointer brought Utah within 61-54 with 5:37
remaining in the third. The teams traded baskets before Golden
State slowly reasserted itself.

The Warriors outshot the Jazz 51.2 to 45.5 percent and
outrebounded them 42 to 32 in a game that had far more drama than
they preferred.

”So far we’ve quote-unquote beaten the teams that we’re
supposed to beat and we’ve won games at home,” Lee said. ”Now we
need to go on the road and do the same thing against a Jazz team
that’s going to come back and want revenge.”

The only damper during the home stand was O’Neal’s injury.
O’Neal, who has battled numerous knee injuries – the most serious
to his left knee – during his 17-year NBA career, was unable to put
pressure on his right leg while being helped to the locker room by
teammates Draymond Green and Ognjen Kuzmic.

Kuzmic, a 7-foot rookie from Bosnia and Herzegovina, will likely
be counted on more if O’Neal misses any significant time. The
Warriors also could play power forwards Marreese Speights and Lee
at center in a smaller lineup.

The injury is compounded because fellow backup center Festus
Ezeli, who appeared in 78 games (41 starts) as a rookie last
season, is working back from right knee surgery. He will likely be
out until at least February.

For the Jazz, they could at least take solace in pushing a
Western Conference contender for the second straight night – a
small sign of progress in a season that has had little so far. Utah
lost its first eight games this season before beating New Orleans
this week.

”The guys are still showing fight in them and were executing at
times, but we have to put together longer stretches of it,
especially on the road,” Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. ”This is
a good team on their floor and they shoot the ball very well.”

NOTES: A moment of silence was held before the game for the
victims of the typhoon that hit the Philippines as the Warriors
hosted ”Filipino Heritage Night.” … Williams will try out a
redesigned facemask before Monday night’s game, though he may play
without one. … The Warriors wore their alternate white
short-sleeved jerseys.

Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at:
www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP