The Golden State Warriors survived a late onslaught from Jordan Clarkson as they held on to beat the NBA-leading Utah Jazz 119-116 at Chase Center Monday night, securing a play-in berth for this year’s postseason tournament.
In what may have been a preview of potential first-round playoff matchup between the one and eight seeds in the Western Conference, albeit lacking some serious star-power on both sides, there was no scarcity of drama, as the Golden State Warriors nearly squandered an 18-point lead with eight minutes left to play in the fourth quarter.
Warriors’ star Stephen Curry was coming off of a 49-point performance despite resting the entire fourth quarter two nights prior, retaking the lead from Washington Wizards’ Bradley Beal in this year’s race for the scoring title, just hours after Beal himself put up a 50-piece on his way to injuring his hamstring and being forced to leave the game in the waning minutes.
Beal’s output was not lost on Steph, who said after Saturday night’s game that he was aware of what Beal had done prior to the tip-off of his own contest against OKC. Steph’s teammates were also conscious of the situation, especially Kent Bazemore, who took a playful jab at Beal after their win over the weekend.
"Forty-nine points in 29 minutes, though, that's unreal," Bazemore said in reference to how Steph handled the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday night. "Then we got guys hurting hamstrings, trying to keep up. So, ya'll gotta do some research on that.”
If anything, Curry came ready to add to his cushion. The game against the Jazz was close throughout the first half, with the Dubs leading by five at the break. Yet Curry put up 14 in the third en-route to 36 for the game, and a last second heave from Jordan Poole to beat the buzzer as time expired saw the Warriors up 14 heading into the final frame.
Warriors reserves Poole and Bazemore and Andrew Wiggins all chipped in on both sides of the ball, combining for 53 points between the three of them and putting forth a consistent, combative defensive effort throughout.
The home team would need every bit of their influence, as the 4,155 fans in Chase Center Monday night watched Jordan Clarkson come off the bench and ignite in the fourth, scoring 24 of his 41 and empowering his team to an impressive comeback from 18 down.
After a driving layup from Clarkson tied the game at 112 with just under two minutes to play, Utah’s potential Sixth Man of the Year came down the floor and drilled a 26-foot step back to give the Jazz the lead.
With 30 seconds to play and possession of the ball, Curry missed a 29-footer that would have given his team the lead, having made just 2-11 from long range up to that point. However a monster rebound from Kevon Looney off the brick allowed the ball to be recirculated around for another attempt, and Curry would not miss the second time, wetting the dagger with just 13.4 seconds left on the game clock and putting the Warriors up one.
SC FOR THE LEAD! pic.twitter.com/SCSX6Ln6ev— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) May 11, 2021
Clarkson would get one final chance on the other end, but his errant three sealed the deal for the Dubs, as they hung on to beat the team with the best record in the NBA and move to 12-5 in their last 17 games, clinching their spot in this year’s play-in tournament.
Curry was in good spirits after the game and seemed content with where the team is at heading into the most important stretch of the season.
“We talked about trying to make this season mean something,” Curry told reporters after the game, “and we’re closing in on that little window where all the ups and downs that we’ve been through, all the emotional rollercoasters, the injuries, the newness of our group, we’re getting to a point where you know who’s available, and you go out and rock, and just kinda let it all out.”
“Who knows what’s going to happen in the next ten days or so, but we’re playing our best basketball in the sense of just understanding how we’re supposed to win,” Curry explained. “Sometimes it goes our way, sometimes it doesn’t, but that is a good feeling when you know the games that matter are here and approaching.”
Curry is now averaging a league-leading 31.9 points per game, with Beal not far behind at 31.4, yet it was Bazemore’s comments that struck a chord with the Washington Wizard, who took time to respond on Twitter before the Warriors took the floor Monday.
@24Bazemore you don’t know me or shit about me bruh!!! You don’t know why I go out there and play and it damn sure ain’t for another man’s approval!!! You a straight LAME!!! But it don’t surprise me coming from you, thats what’s yo type do!!— Bradley Beal (@RealDealBeal23) May 11, 2021
@24Bazemore it’s funny you say that because ya mans admittedly checked my numbers before the game, but IM CHASING!!! Shut yo ass up!— Bradley Beal (@RealDealBeal23) May 11, 2021
I stay in my lane!! Focus on BRAD. Idc what another man doing in this league. I’m concerned about me and MY GUYS over here!! Keep that goofy shit over there @24Bazemore !!— Bradley Beal (@RealDealBeal23) May 11, 2021
When asked about Beal’s comments postgame, Baze was unphased, saying, “I guess you can’t joke anymore. I feel like I’m a pretty lighthearted guy, I stay in my own lane, I don’t say things to ruffle feathers. If you wanna know where my loyalty is, it’s to SC30, so anybody out there chasing him, it’s gonna be tough.”
“It kinda got out of hand,” Bazemore continued. “It’s kinda blowing up, but I don’t get involved in that crap. I’ll go home, love on my wife, watch some Peaky Blinders, and go to bed, dude. I got work to do tomorrow.”
And he’s not lying, as the Warriors get set to host the team with the second best record in the NBA when they take on the Phoenix Suns later this evening at 7 p.m. PT.
Top Image: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images