OAKLAND, Calif. — In a game missing Stephen Curry and Dirk Nowitzki, Thursday night’s nationally televised affair between the Golden State Warriors and Dallas Mavericks came down to Andrew Bogut vs. Brandan Wright in the shadow of the hoop.
Making his first Oracle Arena appearance since November, Bogut smothered Wright’s 6-foot hook shot with 6.2 seconds remaining, saving a 100-97 victory Golden State almost let get away on its home floor.
After the Warriors (29-17) had gotten two hoops from Richard Jefferson and a key block from fellow reserve Carl Landry in a 12-0 flurry that opened a 92-79 lead early in the fourth quarter, the Mavericks (19-27) held Golden State to just one field goal the rest of the way, inching closer all the while.
It was Dallas’ game to win in the final seconds, but leading scorer O.J. Mayo elected to give the ball up to Wright on the low left block. And after the slender big man hesitated slightly, Bogut knew exactly what to do when the former Warrior spun to attempt a left-handed hook: Bogut slapped the ball away before it even left Wright’s hand.
“I ran into a block by accident,” noted Bogut, who said the team’s defensive emphasis on the possession was to stop Mayo and Vince Carter. “When I saw Mayo turn the corner, I left my man (Wright) and went out to stop him. If Brandon had made that shot, I’d have shaken his hand. That’s the guy we wanted to make beat us, not O.J. Mayo.”
Jarrett Jack’s two free throws with two seconds remaining iced Golden State’s third consecutive win, which pushed the team with just one playoff appearance in the last 18 years a full 10 games ahead of the Mavericks, who have appeared in the NBA’s last 12 postseasons.
“That’s a game we’d lose last year,” Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. “This year we have veterans out there. We have an edge to us. We have confidence and we believe.”
They still believe even after having gone three consecutive games without Curry, who sprained his troublesome right ankle last week. The Warriors have won all three of those games, two of which came following Bogut’s 38-game absence to fully heal from offseason ankle surgery.
“He’s the anchor of our defense,” Warriors leading scorer Klay Thompson said of Bogut, who had eight points, five rebounds and three blocks in 25 minutes. “In the end, we just stuck together, played some defense and helped each other out. We played great as a team.”
The Warriors hope to get Curry back for Saturday’s game against the Suns, and the Mavericks are hoping for the same with Nowitzki — they face Phoenix on Friday night — after he was a late scratch against the Warriors with a strained adductor muscle in his right leg.
The injury occurred late in Tuesday’s loss at Portland, and Nowitzki was optimistic about being able to return at the club’s morning shootaround in Oakland on Thursday. But he didn’t feel comfortable enough to play after testing it about an hour before the game, something he and his teammates hope will be different Friday.
“Dirk is a top-12 player in the history of the game, so I’d have to say it’s a lot tougher,” lamented Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle. “But, look, we’ve played without Dirk a lot this year and we know what it’s about.”
The Warriors never trailed in the game but were up just 98-96 in the final minute, and Dallas had a chance to tie with Mayo at the free-throw line with 43 seconds to go. But the Mavericks’ leading scorer (25 points) missed the second of his two attempts, allowing Golden State to retain a one-point advantage.
Misses by Jarrett Jack from the perimeter and David Lee on a tip attempt failed to increase the Warriors’ lead with time running down, setting up Dallas’ critical possession and Bogut’s rejection on Wright.
“We fought all night. You can’t be mad at that,” assured Shawn Marion, who had 18 points and 17 rebounds for the Mavericks. “It came down to a last-second shot. We had an opportunity to get a look and see if we could tie it, and we fell short. That’s it.”
Thompson, who missed 12 of his 14 shots and totaled just seven points the last time the Warriors saw the Mavericks, led Golden State with 27 points. They all came in the first three quarters. Lee contributed a season-best 20 rebounds to complement 15 points.
Carter backed Mayo with 22 points for the Mavericks, who had won six of eight before suffering consecutive narrow defeats in the first two outings in a three-game Western swing.
“We’re not going to give up,” assured Wright, who had made four of his first seven shots before his run-in with Bogut. “We can play with the best in the league. We’re going to keep fighting every night.”
NOTES: The Warriors finished January with an 8-7 record, their third consecutive winning month. . . . Addressing his lack of concern over Curry’s injury before the game, the Warriors’ Jackson said, “If it were a playoff game or a must-win, Stephen Curry would be in uniform tonight.” … The Warriors are planning to play Bogut only once in back-to-backs at least through the All-Star break. Golden State has two such sequences on the road next week: Houston-Oklahoma City on Tuesday and Wednesday and Memphis-Dallas on Feb. 8 and Feb. 9. … The Mavericks’ Chris Kaman missed his second consecutive game after suffering a concussion in practice Monday. … Warriors rookie Harrison Barnes and second-year guard Thompson were among 18 players named to the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge on NBA All-Star Weekend. No Maverick was selected. … The Warriors recorded their 12th consecutive sellout, equaling their longest streak in 16 years.