OAKLAND, Calif. — The Golden State Warriors were so concerned about a lack of offensive production from their bench earlier this season, they made deals to bring in a new set of reserve guards — Jordan Crawford and Steve Blake.
The newcomers contributed 15 points to Golden State’s 111-97 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night, but it was what the reserve unit did on the defensive end that was an even bigger factor in the comfortable win.
Blake (three) and backup forward Draymond Green (four) combined for seven steals in the game, and the Warriors — with four reserves on the floor — held the Hawks scoreless for the first 6:52 of the fourth period to turn a tight game into a runaway victory.
“We got off to a slow start in the third quarter,” Green said of an 18-8 Hawks run that turned a 14-point game at the half into a just a 74-70 Warriors lead. “We (the second unit) had to bring some energy.”
That energy was never more apparent than at the start of the fourth quarter, which began with Golden State up 85-77. Accurate shooting (46.3 percent) and 16 points from Paul Millsap, who was returning from a five-game absence due to a bruised right knee, had helped the Hawks (26-34) stay within striking distance through three periods.
But after Atlanta missed its first two shots of the fourth quarter, Blake drained a 3-pointer to extend the Golden State lead to 88-77, and the defense did the rest.. It was a double-digit margin the rest of the way.
Green had two steals and Blake one over a four-possession stretch in which the Hawks didn’t get a shot. And when they finally did, they misfired on six shots in a row — mixing in a fifth turnover — in what turned out to be a nearly seven-minute drought.
“Our physical effort, the fight in the guys … they’ve giving us everything they have,” assured Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer. “The challenge is to be mentally tougher. I think we slipped up mentally.”
The Warriors, meanwhile, added nine points to their lead during the stretch, capped by Green’s 3 with 6:10 remaining that made it a 20-point game at 97-77.
“That was a great performance across the board,” gushed Warriors coach Mark Jackson. “Our bench did an outstanding job.
“Looking ahead to three games in four nights, we did what good teams do. We took care of business and got a chance to relax.”
Backup guard Shelvin Mack ended Atlanta’s scoreless spell with a 20-footer at the 5:08 mark of the period, but it came well too late to prevent Atlanta’s fifth consecutive loss.
The win was the Warriors’ eighth in 10 games since the All-Star break and allowed them to retain the No. 6 playoff position in the Western Conference with 19 games to play. Golden State (39-24) hosts its two closest rivals in the playoff race — Phoenix and Dallas — in its next two games.
“I’ve been 15 under (.500),” power forward David Lee, the Warriors’ leading scorer with 18 points, said of the club’s record. “That says a lot about what the direction this organization is headed.
“We have depth at every position. That is very important for us.”
Centers Jermaine O’Neal (17 points, eight rebounds) and Andrew Bogut (10 points, nine rebounds) combined for 27 points and 17 rebounds in a tag-team effort for the Warriors, who needed a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by small forward Andre Iguodala to win 101-100 at Atlanta earlier this season.
Iguodala chipped in with 13 points this time, as did point guard Stephen Curry, as Golden State began a stretch in which it plays 13 of its final 20 games at home.
Millsap finished with 16 points and seven rebounds in 24 minutes for the Hawks, who have now lost 13 of their last 14. He hit six of his 14 shots.
Reserves Mike Scott (14) and Pero Antic (10) also scored in double figures for Atlanta, which completes a five-game road trip Saturday night in Los Angeles against the Clippers. Scott missed six of his seven 3-point shots on a night when the Hawks, who entered the game ranked seventh in the NBA in 3-point percentage (37.2), connected on just eight of 34 (23.5 percent) from beyond the arc.
“We have our backs against the ropes and we have to figure out a way to win games,” Millsap said. “It is as simple as that.”
The Hawks remained winless on the road in February (0-6) and March (0-3).
NOTES: Warriors SG Klay Thompson sat out the final 42 minutes after straining his lower back in a fall following a drive to the hoop in the first quarter. The injury is not considered serious. … Led by C Jermaine O’Neal (17), the Warriors’ bench contributed 51 points to the win, the fifth time in the last seven games that the Golden State backups have combined for 40 or more. … The Hawks had 18 turnovers in the game, which the Warriors converted into 22 points. … Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer assured before the game that Millsap, who played 24 minutes Friday, would be brought back slowly, noting, “We’re going to limit him, make sure we’re keeping him moving in the right direction.” … When Hawks SG Kyle Korver had his 127-game streak with at least one 3-point field goal snapped Wednesday in Portland, Warriors PG Stephen Curry snatched the distinction of having the longest such streak at 50 games. He extended the mark to 51 against the Hawks despite hitting just one of four. … The Warriors’ 8-2 record since the All-Star break is the second-best in the NBA, trailing only San Antonio’s 8-1.
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