Steph out with flu, but Warriors storm back to beat 76ers

BY MASON BISSADA

 The Golden State Warriors narrowly defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 118-114 in what was one of the most thrilling games of the season despite a myriad of injuries to star players on both teams.

Entering the fourth quarter down eight, the Warriors (once again without Stephen Curry and Draymond Green) clawed their way back to tie the game with just under four minutes to go in regulation, thanks in large part to Damion Lee and Eric Paschall’s shot-making. Down the stretch, rookie Mychal Mulder hit the biggest shot of his young career, knocking down a deep three to claim the lead for Golden State as Chase Center erupted with applause, possibly the loudest it’s ever been for a non-Curry game this season. With seconds left, Marquese Chriss swatted away Mike Scott’s layup attempt that would’ve given the Sixers the lead. Philadelphia was forced to foul Mulder to extend the game, and the rookie hit two clutch free throws with just seven seconds left to ice the game and give his team the win. Mulder (career-high 18 points, 5-10 FG) was a team-high +15 for the Warriors, and the fact that Steve Kerr had him on the court in the final minutes of a close game speaks to how much he’s impressed on just a 10-day contract.

“A couple games ago, I asked [Mulder], “do you ever get butterflies ?” Damion Lee recalled postgame when asked about Mulder’s play in the clutch. “He’s like ‘nah, never.’ He’s stone-cold and not bashful. Having him out there, being able to space the floor, defend, he’s a high IQ guy as well. He had the highest plus-minus. That’s huge for a ‘10-day’ guy” (Lee put ‘10-day’ in air-quotes, implying that Mulder will inevitably be brought back on another contract).

Lee was once again the team’s offensive engine, scoring a team-high 24 points on 10-17 shooting. He’s been without a doubt Golden State’s best offensive player this season. His offensive rating of 105.2 is the highest for any player on the team who has played 20 games or more. He hit a clutch and-one layup to put his team ahead down the stretch, proving his struggles at the end of Thursday’s game against the Raptors didn’t affect his confidence in the slightest.

Eric Paschall has settled into his sixth-man role, scoring 23 points off the bench on an efficient 8-12 shooting. His midrange isolation game is deadly, and he’s become crafty at drawing fouls in those situations (7-7 from the line on Saturday, including two in the clutch). Paschall’s playmaking has also improved as of late (six assists on Saturday) and his ability to handle the ball allows him to find his teammates in transition or in halfcourt sets.

Marquese Chriss put up one of his most impressive stat lines of the season, filling the box score with 13 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. Chriss near triple-double showcased his excellent playmaking skills with passes out of the post.

“One of the first things we noticed in training camp was (Chriss) ability in the high-post,” Head Coach Steve Kerr said postgame when asked about Chriss passing. ”When he would catch the ball, he was always really good with the dribble-handoff stuff. We’ve always had a guy in that role, whether it was Andrew Bogut or David Lee or Draymond Green. You need a good passer in that spot given the shooting that we have and the way we like to play. Marquese showed that ability right away.”

If Chriss can carry this kind of passing skill into next season when he has two elite jumpshooters (Curry and Klay Thompson) flanking him, he’ll make for an excellent backup center if not a starter.

As a team, Golden State did an excellent job of limiting their turnovers (a season low seven) while still moving the ball, as they assisted on 30 of their 44 made field goals. Though the personnel has changed drastically in the last year, Kerr’s “beautiful game” offense reveals itself every now and then.

The 76ers entered Saturday’s matchup without either of their All-Stars, as Ben Simmons (nerve impingement in his lower back) and Joel Embiid (left shoulder sprain) both sat. They were also without their starting shooting guard, Josh Richardson, who was out while going through concussion protocol. Being shorthanded, it was up to their other notable names, Tobias Harris (24 points) and Al Horford (22 points 10 rebounds, seven assists), to carry the load. The duo did just that, taking advantage of Golden State’s lack of size and punishing them in the post. It’s a luxury for Philadelphia to have those two as secondary options to their franchise cornerstones, although the fit has been less than perfect this season.

After an exciting return game against the Raptors, Stephen Curry was once again sidelined, this time due to the flu. The Warriors organization made it very clear that this was just a normal influenza virus and not COVID-19 (coronavirus). Draymond Green also sat with left knee soreness.

Golden State will next welcome their in-state rival Los Angeles Clippers to Chase Center on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.

GAME NOTES:

Golden State snapped their season-high losing streak of ten games with the victory. It was the third longest in franchise history.

The Warriors field goal percentage of 55% marks a season-high.

Golden State has won seven of their last eight home games against Philadelphia.

Exactly three years ago on this date, the Warriors set the record for the longest regular-season home winning streak in NBA history, winning their 45th consecutive home game by defeating the Orlando Magic. Golden State would go on to extend the streak to 54 games.

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