CHICAGO — The Golden State Warriors’ record, best in the NBA and borne out of a wealth of championship-caliber, speaks for itself.
But as the Warriors continue to march toward what has become an annual trek toward the NBA Finals, Golden State’s supporting cast and defensive efforts are beginning to draw as much attention as its star-studded cast.
The Warriors, who have won three straight, will carry a 20-3 road record — including 13 straight wins away from home — into Wednesday’s game against the surging Chicago Bulls. The Bulls have also won three straight and have only picked up steam since guard Zach LaVine made his season debut last week.
The Warriors (36-9) continued to roll as they finished off a season sweep of the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday. Golden State’s aforementioned reserves help fuel a strong fourth quarter when the Warriors used a 20-6 scoring run to finish off a 118-108 victory.
While Golden State’s mainstays continue to steer the ship, the Warriors bench has held up its end as well. The combination of David West, Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala bolstered the Warriors victory Monday, which was sparked by Kevin Durant, who scored 32 points to go along with 23 by Stephen Curry and a near triple-double by Draymond Green (11 points, 16 rebounds, nine assists).
But when the Warriors needed a late boost, it was their bench that made a difference.
“It’s amazing,” Durant said, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. “That’s just what happens when you have culture and when our coach (Steve Kerr) empowers everybody on the team.”
Kerr credited his bench from spurring on the definitive defensive push when the Warriors were finally able to pull away and close out the victory.
“I thought they set the tone for the quarter, and it seemed like the key stretch of the game — those first six or seven minutes of the fourth,” Kerr said, according to the Chronicle.
The Warriors hope to carry that effort to Wednesday when they will face a Bulls team that hasn’t lacked for confidence from bouncing back from a 3-20 start to the season. Chicago (17-27) is coming off a 119-111 victory over the Miami Heat.
The Warriors won by 49 points in the first meeting earlier this season.
The Bulls connected on 16 3-point field goals in Monday’s victory over Miami, which snapped the Heat’s seven-game winning streak. Justin Holiday connected on a career-high seven 3-pointers while Nikola Mirotic — who remains a popular trade target — scored 14 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter.
LaVine, who returned last week after missing 11 months following surgery to repair a torn ACL, will remain limited to 20 minutes for one final game before the Bulls begin to extend his time on the floor. During the 20-minute restriction, LaVine - who is averaging 16 points, 3.5 assists and 2.5 rebounds per game since his return — is not available to play in the fourth quarter — which he admitted Tuesday isn’t easy at times.
“It’s going to be tough, especially if it’s a close game in the fourth,” LaVine told the Chicago Tribune. “But that’s just something I have to deal with. I shouldn’t have gotten hurt in the first place. That’s just how I feel.”
Regardless, LaVine is happy with how he has played in the time he has seen the floor.
“I got in a good rhythm early the last couple of games and we’re playing the right way, won the last two. Just keep that same trend going.”