SAN FRANCISCO — With every passing day, the pressure in the jam-packed Western Conference builds. It seems like every opponent for the Warriors these days is another horse in the race to avoid the play-in tournament.
A couple days after losing a heartbreaker to the Minnesota Timberwolves to lose some all-important ground in the postseason race, Golden State hosted the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday night. At this point of the season, a win could be the difference between hosting the playoff series or starting on the road – or could define whether you finish in the top six.
You could feel the bottled-up emotion as early as the second quarter, when Draymond Green got into two tussles and flirted with an ejection. You could see the fire when Steph Curry was motioning to the crowd to get on their feet in the second half. Even team president of basketball operations/general manager Bob Myers came down from his seat at one point to calm down Draymond after he got his fifth foul.
Myers is usually posted up about 10 rows behind the Warriors bench, in seats reserved for the front office. But he had to get in the mix after seeing Draymond yelling at his own bench. Not everyone can get through to Green, but Myers is one who holds a key.
Draymond not only got tangled up with the Pelicans all night but was barking at his own team – coaches, players, you name it – and picked up his fourth foul just 30 seconds into the second half. After getting called for a charge and picking up foul No. 5 with 4:48 remaining, Draymond was incensed as he went to the bench, pleading for the Warriors to call for a replay. When they didn’t, Green threw his hands up as if to wave off the coaching staff.
Myers saw the whole episode and came down behind the bench and calmed down Draymond.
“He came down and he was like, ‘Listen. All right, you proved your point and you may have been right, but if you stay that way, guys are gonna follow you,” Green said. “If you turn it around right now and get back in the huddle, guys will follow that. It was huge. I got back in the huddle, I challenged our guys and we boosted our lead even more.”
At that point in the game, the Warriors were holding on to an eight-point lead. Golden State (40-37) ended up beating the Pelicans 120-109 to creep back into the No. 6 playoff seed by half a game over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Myers does more than just make transactions. Yes, he’s been the architect of this franchise since taking over as GM in 2012, but he’s also a confidant and trusted ally within the locker room.
“Whether it’s in front of 19,000 on the bench, or whether it’s a phone call or text or conversation – whatever it is, there’s a lot of trust in his perspective,” Curry said. “You don’t see him come down that often. It’s not something that’s frequent, it’s just timely and it’s just something that Draymond responds to, because he trusts that point of view.
Myers is in the final year of his contract after assembling four NBA title-winning teams over the last eight seasons. He used to be an agent, so you can assume he’s a sharp negotiator who knows his value. Tuesday’s episode with Draymond was another example of the deep, rare organizational continuity the Warriors enjoy.
“Y’all don’t always get to see Bob’s worth,” Green said. “Other than putting the team together, he’s so important to everything that we do. I can’t imagine – and I know, I watch, I know this league – GMs don’t keep a pulse like Bob keeps a pulse of this team. Maybe two other GMs right there would come down and say something. That’s someone that I have the utmost respect for. If Bob comes and tells me something, that’s bible to me. I’m gonna listen to that.”
We’re still in March, but it might as well have been June. The postseason atmosphere has already arrived at Chase Center. Despite trailing by as many as 20 points late in the first half, the Warriors got a supercharged performance from Steph and rolled to an 11-point win.
“Feel like we’ve been in a playoff vibe for a couple weeks now,” Curry said. “The only difference is you’re playing a different team every night. It’s the same kind of adrenaline rush that we’re getting. Every game doesn’t matter.”
Curry scored 22 of his 39 points in the second half, hitting three straight 3-pointers near the end of the third quarter as the Warriors closed out the frame on an 11-4 run. Jordan Poole animated in the fourth quarter and helped Golden State take the lead for good with 9:10 remaining, as the Warriors closed the game out with a 35-20 final period.
Emotions were running high throughout the evening. Draymond said it felt like a playoff game.
“It did and as it should,” Green said. “There are two teams fighting for positioning, they could possibly be in a tiebreaker situation. … We can’t lose two in a row at home, especially at this time of the year, understanding our circumstances. So it definitely felt like a playoff game as it should have.”