OAKLAND, Calif. (AP)—Not even Chris Webber could fix the problems that bedeviled the Golden State Warriors in his first game back. The veteran forward wasn’t even sure he could identify what went so terribly wrong in the Chicago Bulls’ improbable victory.
He left that diagnosis to his teammates and coaches, who all pointed out the gaping defensive void that the Bulls walked through to victory.
Webber had four points and two assists in 12 minutes in his first game with the Warriors since the former No. 1 overall draft pick forced a trade after his tumultuous rookie season in 1994. Wearing an orange headband and his familiar No. 4, Webber was introduced to mild applause in Golden State’s starting lineup.
“It felt good to be out there and get that first foul,” said Webber, who missed shots on Golden State’s first two possessions. “Not the result, but it felt good. Nervous is good. I think it was anxiousness more than being scared.”
The Bulls had plenty of reason to be frightened in their fourth road game in six nights while playing without three of their top four scorers. Instead, they produced one of their gutsiest efforts of the season, led by Duhon’s superb performance as the only true guard in Chicago’s eight-man rotation.
With Ben Gordon, Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich all sidelined, Duhon’s 11-of-16 shooting, four 3-pointers and nine assists carried the Bulls early as they somehow stayed in front of the well-rested Warriors. Tyrus Thomas then took over late, getting 13 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter as the Bulls scored on nine of 10 possessions down the stretch.
“I took open shots, got my rhythm, and they continued to keep falling,” Duhon said. “Being the only guard tonight, it gives you extra confidence knowing that you could be a little bit more aggressive. Even if you miss a few shots and make a couple of mistakes, Coach is going to continue to keep playing you, so you just play a little bit more loose and don’t play mind games with yourself.”
That mentality worked for all eight Bulls. With steady production from a slow-paced offensive plan in a 37-point fourth quarter, Chicago won in Oakland for the first time in nine tries since Jan. 30, 1998, during Michael Jordan’s final season with the club.
“We really needed this one,” said Thabo Sefolosha, who had nine points and seven rebounds. “It was a close game, and we were able to finish it. A lot of players stepped up and brought a lot of things to the team. It’s great when the team plays like that, fighting together for wins.”
Al Harrington, who’s likely to lose playing time to Webber, had 20 points and hit four 3-pointers, but Baron Davis’ 8-for-24 outing and Stephen Jackson’s 6-of-19 performance doomed the Warriors to just their second loss in six games. Monta Ellis led Golden State with 25 points, while Davis had 22 and Jackson 19.
“There’s no excuse to lose this game when their three best players aren’t even playing,” Jackson said. “Our defense was terrible. I don’t know what it was. I think (Duhon) just wanted the game more than we did, and then when they’re giving it to Tyrus Thomas in the fourth quarter to score buckets and he’s delivering, you’re not going to win.”
After Davis hit a layup to pull Golden State within 101-100 with 2:16 left, Chicago scored the next seven points—all on free throws, including four by Smith, another former No. 1 pick (1995) who didn’t do much for the Warriors.
“I don’t think the guys are quitting, I think the guys are stepping up,” Chicago coach Jim Boylan said. “We’re down quite a few players, but we’re not letting that change the way we’re playing. The guys that we have are coming out and playing hard and taking advantage of their opportunities to get some serious playing time.”
Duhon hadn’t scored more than 13 points in a game this season, but surpassed that minor milestone in the first quarter … Despite their injury problems, the Bulls waived F Viktor Khryapa earlier in the day. He played in just nine games this season. … Chicago’s Ben Wallace airballed a free throw late in the second quarter, then did it again in the third. He finished 0-for-7 at the line. … Rapper Nas and LPGA Hall of Famer Juli Inkster attended the game, sitting two seats apart.