PHILADELPHIA — Before Monday night’s game between the Golden State Warriors and Philadelphia 76ers, comedian and Philly native Kevin Hart stood at half-court and ceremoniously rang a mock Liberty Bell. That was followed by a member of 90s R&B group Boyz II Men hyping up the sell-out crowd. Then, in a not-so-strange twist, film director M. Night Shyamalan appeared among the lower-level ticket holders, waving and smiling.
With all the star power in the house at Wells Fargo Center, you would have thought the Sixers were the first team this season to clinch a playoff berth.
But that would be the Dubs.
“I didn’t even know that we clinched a playoff spot until someone told me,” said coach Steve Kerr before the game, playing down the honor. “It’s a good position to be in when you’re not thinking about it. It’s a far cry from where the Warriors were five, six years ago.”
Kevin Durant, who was listed as probable for the game with a left hand contusion, led all scorers with 27 as the Warriors put away the Sixers 119-108 to begin their East Coast road trip on a high note.
The Warriors are now 9-2 in the month of February, and 50-9 on the season. For the first 67 years of the franchise — which spent 1946-62 based in Philadelphia — the team recorded just four 50-win seasons. This year marks their fourth in as many tries.
“It’s not something that’s happened a lot,” Kerr reflected. “It’s a point of pride, but winning the whole thing is what we’re after.”
The half-century wasn’t pretty — at least not from downtown. The Warriors Shot 6-for-29 from beyond the arc, and Steph Curry went 0-for-11. Fellow Splash Brother Klay Thompson — at 3-for-9 — fared slightly better.
“We couldn’t make shots,” admitted Kerr after the game, “but we made up for it by getting to the foul line.”
In what Kerr described as a “pretty dramatic” stat, the Warriors made 33 free throws on 39 attempts, a team average of 84.6 percent.
“Guys just put their head down and got to the cup,” said Draymond Green. “That helped us out a lot.”
After shooting 1-for-10 and scoring only five points against the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday, Green bounced back with a double-double, registering 14 points, 6 rebounds and 10 assists.
“I thought Draymond was the player of the game,” said Kerr. “He brought incredible energy, set a good tone right from the beginning .”
When asked about Green’s poor shooting performance against Brooklyn, Kerr explained that “it doesn’t really matter. What matters to me is everything else that he does for us. His rebounding, his basketball IQ, his intensity. That’s where his real value is.”
The Joel Embiid-less Sixers trailed by three after two quarters, powered by veteran guard Gerald Henderson and emerging Rookie of the Year candidate Dario Saric. However, continuing a trend this season, the Warriors came out running in the third, scoring 10 unanswered to start the half.
The Sixers cut the Warriors’ lead to seven with a running dunk from Robert Covington at 4:58 of the stanza, but they would get no closer — even with a fanatic-for-a-night screaming from the sideline.
“It definitely makes it fun with Kevin Hart talking,” said Green. “It gives you a little extra-added motivation.”
Pressed for more on his relationship with Hart, Green added, “He’s a good dude. Funny. Cool.” Then he paused. “You want more? More words?”
No, Draymond. All that matters is wins as the Warriors march through a long road trip that takes them to Washington tonight for a contest against the Wizards.NBA