Warriors withstand scare to beat Bucks 115-110
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) Sweating out a win against the NBA’s worst team isn’t usually a cause for celebration.
For a franchise that has felt frustration and futility for most of the last two decades, Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson is making sure his players celebrate every milestone during their long climb back to contention.
Stephen Curry had 31 points and 11 assists, Klay Thompson scored 29 and the Warriors moved 18 games over .500 for the first time in 20 years with a 115-110 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday night.
”You can take it for granted. There’s people that’s 19 years old that’s never seen this. That’s a wow moment,” Jackson said. ”It’s an incredible accomplishment, and we’ve still got a ways to go. But we’re going to park and enjoy it, take a deep breath, appreciate it and then continue to chase down our ultimate goals.”
Those goals – making the playoffs, earning home-court advantage in the first round and winning a championship – are all within reach, though some are further away than others.
Golden State (44-26) remains in sixth place in the tight Western Conference standings, 1 1/2 games behind Portland and 2 1/2 games ahead of Memphis and Dallas with 12 games left. The Warriors also trail fourth-place Houston by three games.
”We want to try and get that home court” in the first round, Thompson said. ”It’s in striking distance.”
The Bucks (13-56) were handed another blow in a season full of them when guard Nate Wolters broke his left hand fighting through a screen in the first half. Reserve forward Jeff Adrien also received three stitches above his left eye before coming back in the second quarter.
Brandon Knight had 27 points and eight rebounds, and Ramon Sessions scored 18 for Milwaukee, which has lost six straight and nine of 10 as it finishes off a forgettable season.
”My guys played a very competitive game. We put ourselves in great position once again. We just couldn’t make the plays down the stretch,” Bucks coach Larry Drew said.
The Bucks, who lost in overtime at Portland on Tuesday night, surprisingly stayed with the Warriors most of the game until Curry and company found their touch late.
On one play late in the fourth quarter, Curry dribbled to his left and was fouled by Khris Middleton when he tossed the ball up – and in – with his right hand and his back to the basket. Curry shook his shoulders and waved his arms in celebration, and he completed the three-point play to give Golden State a 104-94 lead with 3:59 remaining.
”Once I got the contact, I was able to get the ball above my shoulders to try to find the rim at some point. And obviously that’s a lot of luck involved,” Curry said.
Milwaukee made one last run highlighted by Ersan Ilyasova’s three-point play that sliced the Warriors’ lead to 108-105 with 56.2 seconds left. But Thompson quickly came back with a corner 3, and Curry made four free throws in the final seconds to seal a milestone win for the Bay Area’s beloved basketball franchise.
The last time the Warriors were 18 games over .500 was when they finished the 1993-94 season with a 50-32 record. They also remain on track to make the playoffs in consecutive years for the first time since the 1991-92 and 1992-93 seasons.
The Warriors have five days off after hosting San Antonio on Saturday, and Jackson has been trying to balance winning with getting his banged-up players some rest.
Starting swingman Andre Iguodala (right knee tendinitis) and backup center Jermaine O’Neal (rest) sat out for the second straight game. Iguodala also will miss the game against the Spurs, while O’Neal is questionable.
Milwaukee hardly gave Golden State a night off.
After the Warriors went ahead by 10 early in the third quarter, the banged-up Bucks came roaring back. Milwaukee took advantage of some sloppy turnovers by Golden State to go up 66-65.
David Lee, who finished with 22 points and 12 rebounds, helped the Warriors put together a brief spurt capped by Jordan Crawford’s 34-footer over Giannis Antetokounmpo as the quarter expired. Crawford hit another 3-pointer at the start of the fourth to stretch the lead to 10, and the Warriors held on late.
NOTES: The Warriors are 13-4 since the All-Star break, tied with San Antonio for the most wins during that time. … Drew confirmed C Larry Sanders will not return this season because of a broken right orbital bone. Sanders was injured Feb. 8 against Houston and had surgery shortly afterward. … The Bucks have lost 11 straight games when they’ve allowed 100 points, while the Warriors have won 10 in a row when they’ve scored 100 points.
Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP