Anthony Lamb clarifies Warriors two-way contract mindset after career night

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Lamb makes mindset clear regarding Warriors two-way deal originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Warriors still were without Steph Curry and found out moments before tipoff that Klay Thompson was a late scratch Saturday night against the Orlando Magic with left knee soreness. Andrew Wiggins was back in the starting lineup, but understandably was knocking off some rust after missing the past 15 games.

Someone else had to provide the scoring. The answer came from what used to be a surprise and now is becoming more and more of a regularity.

Along with Andre Iguodala making his season debut, Anthony Lamb joined him as the first two Warriors off the bench. That was at the 7:28 mark of the first quarter. Lamb wound up scoring 14 of the Warriors' 29 points in the first quarter of their eventual 115-101 loss at Chase Center.

"Lamb was great," Steve Kerr said after the loss. "He kept us in the game early with his 3-point shooting and us a chance. I liked where we were at halftime, given that we hadn't played very well. We were largely there. I think it was a three-point game at that point, maybe four-point game, but we were mainly there because of Lamb keeping us in it with his shooting in the first half."

For clarity's sake, the Warriors were down by three points going into halftime, 62-59.

Coming into the night, Lamb's season high in points was 17. He was three away after his first seven-plus minutes. By halftime, Lamb had set a new high with the Warriors and then tied his career high of 22 points through the first two quarters. The problem was, the Warriors' starters had combined for only 30 points at that time.

Kerr was correct. Lamb quite literally was keeping the Warriors in the game while the rest of the team struggled. From the floor, he was 8-for-14 (57.1 percent) from the field and 5-for-10 (50 percent) from deep in the first half. His teammates were 13-for-33 (39.3 percent) from the field and 8-for-23 (34.8 percent) on 3-pointers.

Reflecting on his night, Lamb looked at that red-hot first half as a teaching lesson. Not so much how he can replicate. Instead, what he needs to improve most to be a complete player.

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"I've had great first halves, had a bunch of great first halves over that last stretch, but being able to lock in and finish the game I think is going to be a progression evolution," Lamb said. "For me personally, to be able to put a whole game together. I have a bunch of guys who lead by example, that can play a whole game. They hit a bunch of big shots down the stretch and being able to watch them or find whatever it is I need to be able to do here.

"To get over that hump myself is going to be big, because if you're the guy shooting the shots and hitting the open ones in the first half, they're gonna be looking for you in the second half and I got a bunch of opens, but I just didn't hit them the same way I did in the first."

Playing 33 minutes off the bench, Lamb finished with a career-high 26 points while shooting 9-for-20 (45 percent) from the field and 5-for-14 (35.7 percent) from beyond the arc. He played slightly more than 18 minutes in the second half and was held to four points, going 1-for-6 from the field and missed all four of his 3-point shots. Lamb did add four rebounds four rebounds, three assists, one steal and made both of his free throws. His plus/minus was a plus-3 in the first half and a minus-7 in the second.

In the Warriors' double-overtime win over the Atlanta Hawks on Monday, Lamb scored 13 of his 16 points in the first half. Then in Golden State's buzzer-beating loss to the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday, 14 of his 17 points were scored in the first half.

Still, Saturday night should be one to remember for Lamb. The Warriors signed the 24-year-old, who turns 25 later this month, two weeks before the start of the regular season. Lamb was active for just one of Golden State's first seven games. He now has played in 31 straight games, and is averaging a career-best 7.2 points per game while making 38.9 percent of his 3-pointers. Yet, he might have to start to be stuck to the bench without a uniform and isn't eligible for the playoffs.

Thanks to his status as a two-way contract player, Lamb can only be active for 50 regular-season games. He already is at 32, and there still are 42 games remaining in the season. All he has left are 18 active games remaining. Does he feel he has proven he deserves a guaranteed contract, especially for a team like the Warriors who have an open roster spot?

The competitor in himself surely has to feel that way. Outwardly, Lamb expressed a deeper mindset with the position he currently resides.

"For me, it's not even really about proving myself," Lamb said. "The biggest thing in playing for the Warriors, I view the Warriors as the best team in the NBA. I grew up, I'm watching the Warriors and they're the best team in the NBA. So that's not what our record (20-20) shows right now, so I want to help in whatever facet I can to make us get to that point.

"Whatever role that is with the guys who play 10 minutes, five minutes, no minutes -- whatever I can do to make us get back to that point where we're the best team in the NBA, that's what I want to do. Rather than prove myself, that's gonna happen through the work towards winning. I know at the end of the day it's going to be whether the coaches, the front office see how much I've impacted winning and that's what I want to do.

"I don't want to have a great night on a losing team, you know. I want to be a part of the Golden State Warriors, the best team in the NBA."

RELATED: Warriors will rise and fall with Poole until Steph returns

Lamb's offense certainly has given them a big boost, especially with Curry and Wiggins missing so much time. He's shooting 50 percent from the field and his 119 offensive rating trails only Kevon Looney, Curry and fellow two-way player Ty Jerome. Lamb's offensive rating is 13 points higher than Klay Thompson's and 16 higher than Jordan Poole's. Over his last three games, Lamb is averaging 20 points on 53.7 percent shooting and 40 percent on threes.

But contributing to winning for the defending champions is about more than putting points on the scoreboard. Lamb's 114 defensive rating ranks 10th on the Warriors. It's only two points better than Thompson and three better than Poole. Versatility is atop Lamb's personal to-do list.

That's what he has been for the Warriors, playing the two forward positions almost evenly. According to Basketball-Reference's position estimate, Lamb, who stands 6-foot-6 and 227 pounds, has spent 54 percent of his time on the floor as a power forward and 45 percent as a small forward. The final one percent is as a shooting guard. To expand his versatility, Lamb is looking to become a better defender.

"The biggest thing I'd say is defensively being able to be as versatile as possible," Lamb said. "There's a couple positions that I'm not all the way comfortable with that I'm trying to clean up and do it as quickly as I can, so I know that whatever lineup I get subbed into I can play any position and be a solid defender in any spot.

"I think that's the biggest focus for me knowing that we have a bunch of guys who can make shots, a bunch of guys who can make the right plays. I can't stand in the corner and still help the team, especially on open ones, but being able to be versatile on defense is the most important thing to me."

Following the biggest scoring performance of his NBA career while playing for a bigger contract, Lamb made it clear where his head's at. His mindset should continue to help him and the Warriors more in the immediate future, and could also make a major impact to his future on the court.

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