OAKLAND — Five seconds after entering the game for the first time in the second half, Golden StateWarriors forward Jonas Jerebko was served a wakeup call from Dallas Mavericks rookie sensation, Luka Dončić.
Taking Jerebko off of a switch near the top of the arc, Dončić drove to the basket, putting the the 6-foot-10 Swede on a poster, also drawing a foul to give Dallas a five-point lead.
“He got a step on me and I was a little late. I kind of deserved it,” Jerebko said. “Hat’s off to him but I had to come back and get them back a little bit.”
Jerebko would use that play to fuel himself to a career game on Saturday night, scoring 18 of his eventual 23 points in the third and fourth quarter to help Golden State secure a 120-116 win over the Mavericks.
“He gave us a huge lift off of the bench,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said. “He shot the ball really well and got some boards for us, too … It was a great night for him.”
The Warriors had their hands full to start the game, dealing with Dončić for the second time this season. In their first matchup, the Slovenian star dropped 24 points, leading Dallas to a 112-109 win at American Airlines Center on Nov. 12.
On Saturday, Dončić picked up right where he left off, scoring 14 of the Mavericks’ first 31 points on 5-of-8 shooting. He would also knock down three shots from behind the three-point line.
“He made some step back threes,” Kerr said. “Those are tough to defend. Really fun to watch.”
For Stephen Curry, who has made a living off of shooting similar step-back shots, Saturday was the first time he had seen Dončić play in person after missing November’s affair with a strained adductor.
“He came out firing tonight with some patented moves that he’s shown,” Curry said. “He’s shown that he knows what he’s doing out there. Obviously he’s a rookie, but he’s found a way impose his will on most nights.”
“That dude good,” Draymond Green added. “He gonna be a problem. He already a problem.”
Dončić, who would finish the night with 19 points and five assists, became a problem for Jerebko with 6:02 left in the third quarter as he threw down a vicious one-handed slam on the former member of the Utah Jazz.
Thirty-eight seconds later, Jerebko would find the rim to score off of a pass from Green, who finished the game with five assists.
Two minutes later, Jerebko found the basket again, this time banking in a reverse layup as he contorted his body off of a feed from Klay Thompson.
Jerebko also pounded the offensive glass, tipping in a ball off of a missed three pointer from Kevin Durant. He would finish the night with four offensive boards.
With nine points in the third quarter, Jerebko kept the momentum going in the fourth quarter by scoring nine more. In a 57-second stretch, Jerebko hit three consecutive baskets for the Warriors, including an arena-rocking, two-handed slam on a fast break feed from Andre Iguodala.
“It felt good. I had that breakaway dunk that gave us like an 11 or 13-point lead. We really needed that push,” Jerebko said. “We really need that sixth man — the fans — so they really showed up. It was awesome.”
Jerebko would finish the night with a career high of 23 points. His previous personal best of 22 came on March 3, 2014 against the Los Angeles Clippers when he was a member of the Detroit Pistons.
“I thought he did a great job going the dirty work for us,” Kevin Durant said after the game. “He was great for us. We’re going to need that the rest of the year.”
For Golden State, Jerebko’s scoring punch will be undoubtedly needed as the Warriors rank 28th in the NBA in bench scoring with 30 points per game.
When Jerebko first signed with the Warriors, Kerr was open stating that Jerebko would have to earn his minutes, also stating that his playing time would likely be situational-based.
Over the course of his last 10 games, though, including Saturday, Jerebko is averaging over 23 minutes per game.
“That’s what I’m in the gym every day,” he said. “I want to get consistent minutes so that’s why I’m in the gym working, showing what I can do and just playing my butt off every night.”NBA