Wounded Warriors edge Kings
Kelenna Azubuike is a power forward trapped in a 6-foot-5 body, a lane-driving swingman who likes battling in the post more than standing on the perimeter.
With the Warriors down to just seven healthy players again Sunday night, Azubuike knew he could do pretty much whatever he wanted while playing 48 full minutes against Sacramento. It's no surprise he chose to mix it up down low, and his teammates weren't startled by his success as the Warriors kept winning without most of their top players.
Azubuike had a season-high 30 points and a career-high 15 rebounds, and Golden State hung on to beat the Kings 105-100 for the club's third straight victory with a frighteningly short bench.
Golden State coach Don Nelson participated in his 3,364th NBA game as a player or coach, surpassing Lenny Wilkens' league record - and yet Nellie still can't stop manipulating his players, even with only seven of them left. He called out Azubuike for poor play in the Warriors' remarkable seven-man win over playoff-bound New Orleans on Friday.
With a passionate effort through three quarters before he tired late, Azubuike clearly responded, although he wouldn't acknowledge it.
"You've got to come back strong, regardless of what the coach says," Azubuike said. "We're just trying to finish strong. We realize it hasn't been the kind of year we wanted, but if we finish strong, we can get some momentum going into next year."
Jamal Crawford had 20 points and eight rebounds while also playing every minute, and Anthony Morrow and C.J. Watson scored 18 points apiece for the Warriors' second win in five days over their closest geographical rivals.
With Monta Ellis added to a long list of injured players due to a sore ankle, Golden State dressed injured center Andris Biedrins just to have the NBA-minimum eight players in uniform. Although Sacramento trimmed Golden State's 15-point lead with 5 minutes left to 100-97 with 1:10 to play, Crawford and Watson combined to hit five free throws in the final 25 seconds.
"We've been playing short-handed all season," Crawford said. "We just have to compete with the guys we have. Everybody is trying to step up and fill the void."
Bobby Jackson had 17 points to lead seven players scoring in double figures for the NBA-worst Kings, who lost their fourth straight, their 11th in 13 games and their 60th game of the season. Beno Udrih scored 16 points and Jason Thompson added 14 points and 11 rebounds before fouling out for Sacramento, which also lost starting center Spencer Hawes late in the first half to double vision after he was poked in the eye.
While Nelson praised his "Magnificent Seven," Sacramento interim coach Kenny Natt had some of his harshest words yet for his club.
"We came out with no energy and no effort," Natt said. "So did they. At the same time, we didn't step up at any point in the game until late in the third quarter. Basically, we just goofed off in this game for three quarters, and then decided to play. By that time, they've already made their move and had the cushion. That's the story of our team right now."
Golden State beat Sacramento 143-141 in overtime in Oakland last Wednesday, but the top two stars from that defensively deficient thriller were injured for the rematch. Sore left ankles sidelined both Kevin Martin, who scored a career-high 50 points for Sacramento, and Ellis, who replied with a career-best 42 for Golden State.
Without those high-scoring guards, the clubs didn't exactly have the collective skill to match last Wednesday's all-offense effort. Golden State went 3-for-19 in the first quarter, while Sacramento committed 12 turnovers while hitting less than 33 percent of its shots in the first half - but they still provided some haphazard entertainment for the half-full Arco Arena.
Golden State finished the third quarter on a 21-8 run including eight points from Azubuike, who scored 29 points in the first 36 minutes, to take an 86-69 lead into the fourth quarter. The Warriors led 96-81 with 5 minutes left, but Thompson scored seven points during Sacramento's 16-4 run.
Udrih and Francisco Garcia both missed shots for the Kings in the final 30 seconds, and Golden State hit just enough free throws.
"We didn't come ready to play in this one," said Andres Nocioni, who had 13 points and 15 rebounds for the Kings. "We played without energy. We missed a lot of shots."
The Warriors also played without forward Brandan Wright (shoulder), captain Stephen Jackson (foot), guard Marco Belinelli (ankle) and high-scoring reserve Corey Maggette, who played briefly against Sacramento five days earlier before going back to the locker room with post-concussion syndrome.
The 6-foot-1 Watson's missed dunk in the second quarter ricocheted off the back of the rim and all the way to midcourt, where it went out of bounds at the scorers' table. ... The Northern California clubs split the four-game season series. ... Rashad McCants played for Sacramento despite back spasms, scoring 14 points.