Warriors overcome dreadful first half, beat Sixers with spark from bench
SAN FRANCISCO — At their best, this Golden State Warriors team can flaunt their depth.
After arguably their worst half of basketball played this season, depth helped turn a 19-point first-half deficit into a 20-point victory, their ninth-straight double-digit victory at home. Golden State turned in a 116-96 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Thanksgiving eve at Chase Center.
The Warriors are an NBA-best 16-2 with now two wins by 20-plus points this season after trailing by at least 10 points, according to ESPN Stats. The rest of the NBA has three of those wins combined.
The Sixers were without its two stars in Joel Embiid, in COVID-19 protocols, and Ben Simmons has been out all season for non-injury related reasons. But the game gave the crowd a brotherly matchup with Steph Curry facing off against Seth Curry — along with step brother Damion Lee.
The younger Curry, returned from back stiffness, has never outscored his older brother, but he came pretty close with 24 points to Steph’s 25 on the night. Compelling as is, the Curry brother matchup didn’t dictate the game. Here are some takeaways.
Juan Toscano-Anderson the “junkyard dog”
Toscano-Anderson was the unexpected hero of the night, jolting his listless team with his “junkyard dog” bark in the second half.
Without a shot attempt in the first half, Toscano-Anderson helped turn the energy defensively in his 20 second-half minutes. He wrangled six rebounds with six assists and 13 points. A performance punctuated by a dunk over 6-foot-10 center Andre Drummond and a put-back dunk that got an antsy Chase Center crowd out of their seats.
“It’s great as a coach to know you can always count on a player like Juan,” head coach Steve Kerr said. “Who can start, he can be your eighth man. He can be your 12th man. But you always know what your’e getting.”
Pretty good for a player who was out of the rotation just a week ago.
“I’m a grown-a– man,” Toscano-Anderson said. “And things aren’t always going to go my way or the way that I want them to and life is about how you respond to different situations.
“I’m not afraid to do the dirty work, whatever it is. I’m just going to play hard all the time. I love this game and I’m appreciative to have an opportunity.”
Kerr’s Warriors have seen some historically great regular seasons championed by a deep bench. He hasn’t been shy about sifting through a ten-man rotation to find just the right on-court elixir. In desperate need of some spark on both ends when the Sixers downhill attack on offense looked overwhelming, Toscano-Anderson stepped up, finishing with an astounding plus-21 over 25 minutes in the plus/minus.
“He was everything,” Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins said. “He gave us a lot of energy. He was all over the floor, assisting, rebounding but the energy was contagious.”
Wiggins keeps his stride
Wiggins has been on a tear since the Warriors win against Minnesota on Nov. 11, averaging 24 points on 56% shooting heading into Wednesday’s game. Curry half-jokingly promised to text Wiggins a picture of the turning point — a poster dunk from that game on former teammate Karl Anthony Towns — to motivate him before each game.
Curry’s taken that promise a step further.
“I let him dunk on me before the game and I yell KAT’s name,” Curry said.
Wiggins, at first, seemed to be a victim of the cursed first half. He missed four free throws to start the game and looked lethargic on both ends. With the energy picked up, Wiggins turned on the jets, locked in defensively and turned in 19 points and six rebounds.
The defensive shift
The NBA’s top defense looked porous against the Sixers in the first half, who were attacking off the dribble and drawing plenty of touch fouls. Draymond Green landed in foul trouble with four personal fouls before the half.
The turnaround saw the Warriors kick their defense back into gear. Green didn’t incur another foul for the rest of the game.
“He’s just smart,” Kerr said. “He understands how to avoid fouls, how to play with foul trouble. That’s why we always leave him in, pretty much.”
The Sixers don’t turn the ball over — they had 10 in the first half. But turned the ball over another 18 times in the second half for a total of 38 points handed over to Golden State on turnovers.
Jordan Poole’s buzzer-beater
Early signs of a comeback showed when Poole hit a buzzer-beater from half-court to end the half and put the Warriors within nine of the Sixers.
The Warriors practice this shot, Curry said. Poole leads Curry in a head-to-head competition.