OAKLAND — Three-and-a-half minutes into the second quarter on Friday night, as the Golden State Warriors had begun to string together one of their signature, game-changing runs, Jordan Bell dove to the floor in front of the Golden State bench to save a loose ball on the baseline.
For the Warriors, who had lost four consecutive games for the first time in the Steve Kerr era heading into Friday night, the selfless play from Bell embodied their desperation to secure their first win in over a week, which came in the form of a 125-97 victory over the visiting Portland Trail Blazers.
“It just showed how hungry we were to win this game,” said Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson. “Trust me, we’ve been frustrated these last four games … You saw it in our energy tonight how bad we wanted this win and that play was a perfect example of it.”
Over the course of the last nine days, stretching back the their 107-86 loss to the Houston Rockets, Golden State had seemed to have lost its basketball identity.
Averaging only 95.5 points per game in that stretch on 42.25 percent shooting from the floor — including 23.2 percent from three-point range — the Warriors had hit their most notable slump since Kerr took over as head coach in 2014.
In an effort to change that narrative, Golden State began the first half with defensive mentality, knowing that in order to be successful scoring the ball, they had to start by stopping the ball.
“From the start of the game, the focus was on the attention to detail that’s been lacking in the last four games,” Kerr said. “It’s missed box-outs, it’s letting buys back cut and silly fouls … All of that stuff was really glaring on tape and I thought the guys got back to basics tonight.”
Initially in the first quarter, the Warriors looked to be having trouble shaking off their recent habits. By the end of the first period, Golden State had allowed Portland to score 27 points on 45 percent shooting from the floor, including 42 percent from behind the arc.
Then, between the 11:07 and 5:40 mark in the second period, the Warriors went on a 22-3 run, turning a five-point deficit into a 14-point advantage.
During that span, Golden State held Portland to 1-of-9 shooting, blocked two shots and forced three turnovers. Of the three turnovers, the most important was Bell’s dive to the floor, after poking the ball aways from Trail Blazers forward Nik Stauskas.
“Steve [Kerr] told us today to just bring energy,” Bell said. “I didn’t think I had a chance getting the ball so I just dove — fake hustle — to get the team and the crowd going. It happened to stay in and like coach said, I think that kind of sparked our energy.”
Thanks to Bell’s steal, Kevin Durant would knock down a 27-foot 3-pointer to give the Warriors an eight-point advantage and continue game-defining run.
“It changed the game for us,” said Warriors forward Kevin Durant regarding the play. “Putting your body on the line for your team, especially when we’ve been struggling lately, it shows he’s a true pro.”
For Bell, his playing time has fluctuated for the majority of the season. Averaging less than six minutes of playing time per game during the Warriors’ last four outings — including only 16 seconds in Golden State’s 112-109 loss to Dallas — Bell hasn’t seen much court time.
On Friday, however, Bell saw just over 20 minutes on the floor, which he converted into five points, seven assists, five rebounds, two steals and two blacked shots.
“He fills up the stat sheet so well,” Thompson said. “He has an incredible line … That’s Draymond-esque.”
Without Draymond Green for the sixth time in their last eight games, Bell helped the Warriors establish and maintain that ultra-impactful run, but it was Golden State’s remaining two healthy All-Stars, Durant and Thompson, who carried them home to their first win in nine days.
Durant would finish the game with 32 points on 13-of-21 shooting and Thompson wouldn’t be too far behind with 31 of his own to help Golden State secure their first victory of at least 20 points since October 29 against the Chicago Bulls.