Steph Curry

Prideful Warriors' win over Bulls leaves good impression around NBA

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Subtract the second quarter, when they regressed to the uninspired, defensively unsound ways of their past several games, and the Warriors on Friday night seized upon a formula that can bring cheers back to Chase Center.

Though the result won’t diminish efforts to upgrade the roster, this was, for the most part, an exhibition of team basketball. Unlike the group that snoozed through two losses this week, the Warriors clearly cared about possessions and were committed to chasing victory.

Those were the overriding factors behind Golden State’s 140-131 victory over the Bulls in Chicago. And they should reverberate through the roster, the coaching staff and the front office – and, after excellent performances by Andrew Wiggins and Jonathan Kuminga, maybe beyond the league.

“The whole group, the whole team, was just committed to ‘Let’s go out and win,’ ” coach Steve Kerr told reporters at United Center. “I’m very proud of them. They’ve taken a lot of heat; we’ve all taken a lot of heat this past week. Deservedly so. But this is what you do as a pro. A lot of these guys are champions. You’ve got to respond, and they did.”

The response felt like a revival. It’s not that the Warriors suddenly look like a contender. That can’t ever be determined by any game between mediocre teams, neither of which consistently brings defense. We’ll circle back to the defense because, well, it remains Golden State’s most stubborn problem.

But these Warriors were energetic, connected and mindful. They recorded 39 assists with only three turnovers (plus two team turnovers). They beat the Bulls by putting up eight more shots, grabbing eight more rebounds and scoring more points off second chances (21-10) and fast breaks (19-12).

The Warriors showed an element of pride, something missing from each of the last two games, blowout losses to the Raptors and the Pelicans.

“Those last two games, we just felt like they were anomalies of the season,” Klay Thompson told NBC Sports Bay Area. “We’ve been fighting so hard, with so many close battles lost. We weren’t discouraged. We know that it’s a long season with ebbs and flows.

“Even though we got beat probably a combined 100, we responded.”

The Warriors actually lost the last two games by a combined 51 points. It might have felt like 100 because the rare sound of boos, richly deserved, were bouncing off the walls of Chase Center.

“We got off track emotionally and spiritually the last couple games,” Kerr said. “Our fans could feel it. We got booed for the first time since I’ve been here, 10 years. And, as I said, both nights we deserved it because our energy and our competitive spirit were not there. We found that again tonight.”

Nobody came from the darkness with more gusto than Wiggins, who is having the worst season of his NBA career. Inserted into the starting lineup for the second time since Dec 12, he delivered an efficient 17 points, eight assists, five rebounds, one block and one steal.

After making Wiggins available in trade, per multiple league sources, the Warriors had to like his performance. So, too, might NBA scouts. One game can’t fix a season, but Wiggins reminded observers of his value when he is fully engaged.

“Wiggs was great,” Kerr said. “Played a fantastic game. He pressured Coby White to start the third quarter and we were a little more physical. We got into a good groove, had a great third quarter and that set up the game for us.”

The Warriors want to retain Kuminga, who is coveted by several teams. But he is not untouchable. Coming off the bench for the first time in a month, the third-year NBA forward scored 24 points and grabbed five rebounds in 24 minutes.

Golden State needed everything they got from Wiggins and Kuminga, as well as Thompson (30 points) and Stephen Curry (27). Being outscored 45-20 in the second quarter led to a 13-point halftime deficit that required a tremendous second half to get back into the game.

“It's kind of crazy,” Kerr said. “We had 39 assists and five turnovers, and it’s still a game down the stretch.”

Which brings to the ugly side of evening. Golden State’s defense continued its trend of being atrocious. Chicago, despite being a bottom-10 offense, is the third consecutive team to come out in the first half and blow past the 70-point barrier, taking a 75-62 lead into the locker room. The Bulls shot 69 percent in the half, including 75 percent in the second quarter.

So, the Warriors’ most serious problem persists.

“The last two games, the taste was a little bit bad,” Dario Saric said. “We weren’t there. We didn’t compete. Maybe we competed like players, but we didn’t compete like a team.

“We need to be on a mission. Every position, 100 percent, 100 percent. That’s how we’ve got to come back.”

Any comeback will need that “mission” mentality. It was enough, on this night, to get two wins. The game and leaving a good impression on teams scouting the Warriors for trade possibilities.

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