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