OAKLAND — Facing a Miami Heat team that had lost eight of 10 and owns the second-worst record in the Eastern Conference, the Golden State Warriors had what amounted to a scheduled win on the docket on Tuesday night at Oracle Arena.
While the Warriors ultimately took care of the Heat 107-95, Hassan Whiteside — Miami’s ultra-talented 7-footer — made sure there would be nothing easy about the win.
“Whiteside is a handful,” head coach Steve Kerr said of the Heat center who went for 28 points while pulling down 20 boards. “Whether he’s scoring inside or not, he’s a threat in there and have to honor that and that opens other things up.”
With Klay Thompson home resting as he recovers from an illness, the Dubs produced a lethargic first half.
“He’s a huge part of what we do on both ends of the floor,” Kevin Durant said of the absent shooting guard. “And we definitely missed him. It was an adjustment to start the game, but I think we figured it out, but we’d love to have him out there.”
The hosts trailed 54-53 at the break even after briefly building up a 10-point advantage in the second quarter.
With Thompson out, Durant and Stephen Curry shouldered the scoring burden. Durant matched Whiteside with 28, while Curry went for 24 — 15 of which came in the first half. Quietly, Curry nearly tallied a triple-double, finishing with eight rebounds and nine assists.
With the Splash Brother’s usual backcourt counterpart out of the lineup, Patrick McCaw drew his first NBA start — creating an unfamiliar dynamic for the starting five.
“We’re so used to Klay running off screens and he’s such a threat,” Kerr said. “He puts so much pressure on the defense with his shooting. So, without him, it was a different feel, a different look. It did seem different and it did seem like the guys took a little bit of time to get used to it.”
In McCaw’s 18 minutes on the floor, the rookie hit just one field-goal — a 3-pointer — and it was actually reserve guard Ian Clark who left the bigger fingerprint on the game. With 10 points in 22 minutes of the bench, Clark has now gone for double figures on eight occasions.
The win over the Heat reversed an ugly recent trend in which the Warriors have wasted late leads. Midway through the fourth quarter, the Heat were within three points of tying the game.
“We did a good job of cutting the water off there and not letting them close that lead up and Ian made some big shots and Steph did [too],” Durant said. “We executed down the stretch, so that was good.”