Saturday , May 8 2021

How Jordan Bell broke out at the right time for Warriors in need of bigs

OAKLAND – And two days later, all was well again. Kind of. The Golden State Warriors will be the day-to-day as long as Stephen Curry and Draymond Green have.

However, Friday's 125-97 throttling of the justifiably weary Portland Trail Blazers was thoroughly Warriors in the same way that losing 123-95 to Oklahoma City Thunder two nights earlier was not, and as dramatic turn as this represented in the short turn, Kevin Durant explained it best.

"I do not think it's gonna be over when it's over," he said, as he surveyed not just his brilliant performance, but those of his mates in breaking their four-game losing streak. "I do not believe in fairy tales or anything like that. It will not be over until we start to impose our will. We have to play with more passion and energy, and I never think it will happen eventually. "

Well, it happened Friday night – the kind of energy and purpose, the drive and smarts, the tactical smarts and the strategic discipline that they lost 12 days ago and struggled to regain while they went through Time Out From Hell and its aftermath. All the questions of their fragility and lack of depth and the uncertain future that awaits them as a team made them seem almost like a dynasty in the past.

Almost, that is. It's still November, and their standard is not a reasonable one for most teams. Not only that, Portland had just flown in from Milwaukee after taking a 43-point beating at the hands of Antlered Freaks, an unreasonably hellish bit of scheduling.

However, the Warriors applied their standard, and this game was the first time they had met it so comprehensively since maybe the Phoenix game a month ago.

They defended with zeal and intelligence, and offensively they moved the ball with crispness and thought so that the burden of the night did not fall on Durant and Klay Thompson – although the results (63 points on 25-of-42 shoot plus 15 rebounds between them) seemed to indicate that.

Instead, they got a mega-useful and effervescent performance from Jordan Bell, confident and opportunistic shooting from Quinn Cook, and noticeable contributions from almost everyone else. The 11 steals and 48 field goals on only 85 shots showed how intelligently and quickly they turned defense into offense, and in all discernible ways they had snapped themselves out of their fortnight of torpor.

The Warriors are good for a few such games every year in which they hit a lull that seems to baffle them, and then free themselves in a burst. More to the point, they take embarrassing losses like Wednesday's as a reason to recalibrate. They have lost 19 games in the championship era – playoffs included – by 20 points or more, and their record in subsequent games is 16-3.

Of course, every situation has its own unique corners, and the current struggle has come without Curry and Green, a difficult transition for a team that works best at pace and with spacing to make that pace work best. This latest run of indifferent results has been compounded by Green's run-in with Durant and the argle-bargle of looking ahead to the offseason while the in-season is barely five weeks old, a level of insanity that speaks to our cultural resistance to process and boredom.

In other words, it looked worse because they lost four-straight and looked mad at doing it, as though the season had decided to put a "Closed For The Winter" sign then and there.

But from the jump Friday night, the crowd exhorted them to revert to their truest and most attentive selves, and eventually they responded in kind, most notably Durant, who played 37 minutes and in different rotation, including the second group that starts the second quarter . Indeed, he played the entire second quarter, scoring 14 of his 32 points and logging and plus-18 to highlight the Warriors' game-breaking 35-17 period.

"I thought he played a brilliant game with every unit he was in," Kerr said. "I do not think it was anything dramatic. I just thought he was playing so well that he was going to be good in every unit he was in. "

And Durant's freedom created freedom elsewhere, in Thompson and in Bell and in Cook.

"We just looked like ourselves," Kerr said. "The activity level at both ends … it was just a really good night."

Just when the hystericals were wondering if there would ever be another.

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