It’s only fitting that in the last game before the All-Star Break, a pair of players bound for New Orleans made the two biggest plays of the night when the game mattered most, but in the end it was LeBron James who had the last laugh as the Warriors lost to the Heat 111-110 on Wednesday at Oracle Arena. After Stephen Curry converted a three-point play to put the Warriors ahead by two with 14.6 seconds left in the game, James milked the clock and delivered a game-winning three-pointer for Miami with 0.2 seconds left. James’ game-winner spoiled a Warriors comeback that saw the team recover from a 21-point deficit in the third quarter and another nine-point deficit in the fourth period. Curry finished the night with 29 points, 19 in the second half, and seven assists and David Lee added 21 points and 11 rebounds in the defeat. Klay Thompson tallied 17 points and Harrison Barnes, who along with Curry is headed to NBA All-Star Weekend in New Orleans, added 14 points off the bench. The Warriors will return to action after the break next Wednesday with a road game against the Kings.
On Iguodala's defense on LeBron's Game-Winner:
“When you think about it and look at the play it was great defense with a great contest. At the end of the day we witnessed greatness. A special player and an all-time great who made a big time shot.”
On whether they tried to blitz or trap LeBron on final possession:
“We took it out of his hands initially. Initially they wanted him to bring the ball up the floor so Draymond (Green) was in deny. His strength, athleticism, speed and quickness - he got separation and got the basketball. The question then do you trap him? They spread the ball with shooters and what you don’t want to do is in that situation is have a great passer hit one of the shooters in a rhythm for a three pointer. It was pick your poison. We were willing to live with defense one-on-one once he caught it. The defense was very good and Andre (Iguodala) did his job he just made a great shot.”
On coming back from 21-point deficit:
“I told my guys that I was proud of them. Down 21 all the momentum going their way and we fought, scratched, clawed and got back into the game We defended and offensively I thought we were in a rhythm and unselfish. I was very pleased with the way we battled and competed tonight.”
On switching defensive scheme in third quarter:
“We did mix it up with some zone. It was effective at times. They were hurting us with the pick-and-rolls with small, small pick-and-rolls. When you have a guy like LeBron (James) handling the ball it makes it tough so we gave them a different look and it was effective. You don’t want to give them a steady diet of that because before long they will pick it apart with shooters on the floor.”
On Warriors' 36-point third quarter:
“We got stops defensively and offensively there was no secret, put them in pick-and-rolls. Played at our pace, pushing the basketball, setting great screens and picking them apart offensively. I thought Steph (Stephen Curry) did a great job of finding guys and also mixing it up between shooting the jumper and turning the corner. That’s when we are at our best.”
On taking positives from the loss:
“I really do. If we play at the level we did tonight the way we competed and battled we are going to look forward to an exciting second half of the season. It will be important to make sure that we come back with this mentality.”
On LeBron James' Mount Rushmore:
“I really don’t think it’s fair to have a Mount Rushmore because you are leaving, even his Mount Rushmore, he left some incredible players off that mountain. Whoever you want to put up there you might as well start chipping away his face. In my opinion he’s the greatest small forward to ever play this game and will be in the discussion with anybody that has ever played the game when it’s all said and done. He’s an incredible basketball player a complete basketball player with no weaknesses.”
On how the team feels after the loss:
“There are no moral victories. We know we played well, we just got beat by a great shot and we’ll be fine going forward. We put the gas pedal down in the second half to come back and a couple inches away from getting the win. We’ll be alright; we’ve got to be happy about the way we played. There are no moral victories but it’s not such a depressing loss that we won’t be able to recover come Wednesday.”
On how the team feels heading into the All-Star break:
“We feel like we can be better. Obviously last year we were pretty happy with where we were. This year we feel like we let some games slip but still have a grip on where we’re trying to go. So we come back, get rejuvenated; a lot of home games and hopefully we can change the result of playing here at Oracle like we haven’t in the past couple weeks. Morale is high. The vision is pretty clear of where we are trying to go when it comes to seeing ourselves where we stack up in the Western Conference and what to expect down the stretch. Confidence is high right now for us as a team."
On not getting behind early in games:
“That’s part of the game. You’ve got to have the mental toughness to come back and fight through even when you get down 14, 16 points. You’ve got to have that intensity coming into games and not let ourselves get down, that’s happened to us a few times.”
On LeBron's game-winner:
"As far as the move he made and the way he was guarded, there’s nothing you can change about that. There’s nothing I would change, he just made a tough shot. You’ve got to give him credit for that.”
On tonight's game:
“It was high octane; offensively, defensively, really intense. I feel like both teams laid it out there, especially knowing we’ve got a break coming up. We couldn’t have played any better as far as the last possession. We always battle when we play these guys. I’m happy with our effort and that was a really tough shot that LeBron [James] hit at the end; it couldn’t have been better defense.”
On making a comeback:
“Just take it one possession at a time. I knew we were going to make a big run, it was just a matter of when. We were playing unselfish and Steph [Curry] was doing what he does, putting us on his back at times. I knew we were going to make a big run, it was just a matter of time.”
On James' game-winning shot:
“I thought it was short. I thought we won the game. A big time player made a big time shot and you’ve got to give him credit.”
THE MAIN EVENT
The Warriors are set for one of the most highly anticipated games of the season as they take on the Miami Heat on Wednesday for this season’s lone Bay Area visit from the reigning NBA champs. The Dubs won in Miami, 123-114, on January 2 and are the only Western Conference team to win in South Beach in each of the last two seasons. They’ll be looking to complete the season sweep of the Heat, and a limited number of tickets are still available for this premiere event. Plus, the first 10,000 fans in attendance will receive a free T-Shirt, courtesy of Cache Creek Casino Resort. GET TICKETS
LAST TIME OUT
It was unofficial Mo Speights night at Oracle on Monday as the Warriors prevailed over the visiting Philadelphia 76ers by a score of 123-80. Speights was simply unbelievable, recording a new career-high with 32 points on 12-of-15 shooting, all in 27 minutes off the bench. The Dubs played without Andrew Bogut or Jermaine O’Neal, but still had Stephen Curry to lead the way, who scored 23 points and dished out eight assists in the blowout victory. It was a group effort, as David Lee, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala and Harrison Barnes all scored in double-figures. The win pushes the Warriors record to 31-21. GAME RECAP
BENCH STEPPING UP
The Warriors bench has been criticized all season for its lack of production, so it only figures that the reserves have picked up their play with some of the regular starters missing time recently due to injury. Harrison Barnes has impacted the game more over the last week and Marreese Speights, as described above, is coming off perhaps the best performance of his career. And with Jordan Crawford getting more comfortable by the day in his new surroundings and Jermaine O’Neal returning to full health, not to mention the consistent effort of Draymond Green, the second unit suddenly seems less concerning for the Warriors. In fact, the Dubs’ bench has out-scored that of the opponents in five of the last six games, and the lone exception in that stretch came during last Tuesday’s nightmare against Charlotte in which the Bobcats’ reserves out-scored the Warriors’ bench 28-26. As we go deeper into the season, the bench’s production will become more and more important. The threat of foul trouble and injuries to the starters are always present, so the second unit will need to be ready to perform when their numbers are called. If recent performance is any indicator, the bench unit is up to the task.
WELCOME BACK D-LEE
He was only gone two games, but the Warriors certainly missed David Lee. The veteran forward missed a pair of games while dealing with a left shoulder sprain and left hip sprain, but he returned to action on Monday and posted a double-double, his 26th of the season, with 13 points and 13 rebounds. What’s even more important than his production was the face that he was able to play 30 minutes. No matter how long a layoff, a player can struggle to get his wind back, and with the two-time defending champs coming to town on Wednesday, the Warriors will need Lee to be as close to full strength as possible.
MIAMI SCOUTING REPORT
The Heat have won back-to-back NBA Championships and can be expected to play well in to May and quite possibly June this season. LeBron James is having another MVP-caliber campaign (26.3 points per game, 6.5 assists and 6.9 rebounds), leading a team that ranks first in the NBA in field goal percentage (50.7 percent) and offensive rating (109.4 points per 100 possessions). James will be joined by teammates Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh at this weekend’s NBA All-Star Game, and Miami has several complimentary pieces that fit in well with their championship aspirations. In the middle of a six-game Western Conference road trip, the Heat will come into Wednesday’s game fresh off of Tuesday’s win in Phoenix, and the Warriors will be looking to take advantage of what they hope is a road-weary team.
GSW: Andrew Bogut (left shoulder inflammation), Festus Ezeli (recovery from right knee surgery), Nemanja Nedovic (left hamstring strain/right foot inflammation) and Jermaine O’Neal (right wrist inflammation) are out.