The Warriors staved off their worst start in franchise history Saturday night with a surprisingly easy 103-87 victory over the Bobcats.
“We didn’t have the right to come in and say `We’ll win this,”’ said first-year Golden State coach Mike Montgomery. “They were probably looking at us a game they could get.”
Montgomery opened his NBA career with six consecutive losses, putting the Warriors in danger of besting the franchise futility mark set at the start of the 1997-98 season by opening 0-9.
“It feels like we won the national championship,” said Montgomery, famous for failing to win a title in 18 seasons at Stanford. “There was a huge elephant in the room and the thing was getting bigger and bigger.”
The win was a lot easier than Golden State expected because of a myriad of injuries to Charlotte.
Already down to 10 players because of injury, Emeka Okafor and Jason Hart both left the game with ankle injuries, and Primoz Brezec was bothered by a sore shoulder that had him playing with just one arm.
“It’s those damn (Carolina) Panthers—it’s contagious and they passed it on,” said Bobcats coach Bernie Bickerstaff, referring to Charlotte’s NFL team, which has 11 players out for the year.
“With the group we had tonight, that was about as good as we could do.”
But because the Warriors have been so bad in their losses, they should have expected a fight from the Bobcats, who have been surprisingly good.
The Bobcats didn’t roll over in their first four games and had a chance to win late each time except in Friday night’s loss to Boston.
So against winless Golden State, that effort should have been enough to give them their second victory of the season.
Instead, the Warriors ran right over them.
The Warriors built a 22-point, first-half lead against the undermanned Bobcats. Still, Charlotte somehow sliced a 19-point lead in half before the end of the third quarter.
“A few guys went down tonight, but all in all we started the fourth quarter and we were right there,” Charlotte guard Eddie House said.
Then Richardson stepped up and put Golden State back in control.
After Derek Fisher opened the fourth quarter with a basket to put Golden State up 74-63, Richardson made a pair of baskets in a 6-0 run, and added a 20-footer that put the Warriors up 84-71 with 8:09 to play.
Golden State pulled away from there.
“This was a must win for us,” Richardson said. “We gave our best and played hard. We played with a sense of urgency and when you start paying attention to detail and your back is to the wall, you’ve got to find a way to bring it.”
Charlotte G Brevin Knight spent most of the pregame shootaround catching up with Montgomery, who coached him at Stanford. … Short on big bodies and worried about overplaying Okafor and Brezec, Bobcats coach Bernie Bickerstaff said he doesn’t have many options because forward Jamal Sampson is not ready to come off the injured list. … Charlotte forward Theron Smith, who missed 53 games with Memphis last season because of injury, said he was disappointed to have arthroscopic surgery earlier this week. He hopes to be back in four weeks.