Warriors' GP2 win-now move was seen, felt in win over Spurs originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
There was a new shimmy, accompanied by a mean mug with a little over three minutes remaining after splashing his seventh 3-pointer of the night to give him a game-high 33 points. But first, he dropped his right shoulder into Gary Payton II's chest, an unspoken appreciation for a Warrior whose impact goes past stuffing the box score.
With Tre Jones all over his back, Payton boxed out the Spurs guard, leapt for an offensive rebound of a Klay Thompson missed 3-pointer and fought to keep the play alive. The ball found Curry, and the ensuing sequence was the Warriors star getting fouled on a layup attempt he expected to convert. He wasn't going to let Payton's determination go unnoticed.
"He got an extra tip on the ball that kept it alive and then I was in the right place to steal it away," Curry said to NBC Sports Bay Area in the locker room after the win. "That's kind of his move to get an extra possession. I don't usually find myself down there. But when I got the foul and did all the flexing and stuff, I made sure that I showed him some love because he kept it alive and that's the little things that people don't really know -- the right people recognize that's what he does.
"We all recognize how valuable it is to make winning plays, even though he didn't get a stat for that. But it's just having some fun too, appreciate him."
There's no denying the stats that Payton did put together against the Spurs. In 18 minutes off the bench, he scored seven points while going 3 of 5 from the field and made one of his two 3-point attempts. Offense never will be Payton's true calling, though.
The 6-foot-3 veteran who defies positions snagged eight rebounds -- four defensive and four offensive -- as well as one steal, one block and one assist. The second he stepped foot on the floor, the energy of the players and fans alike shifted in the Warriors' favor.
"That's why we traded for him," Curry said. "It kind of speaks for itself. And understanding how he helped us win a championship last year when he's healthy and how he can influence the game in a lot of different ways."
Coming into a game that was penciled in as an automatic victory facing the 19-win Spurs, the Warriors were sleepwalking in front of their home fans out of the gates on a night where they set a new Chase Center mark with their 32nd win on their home court. Within the first five minutes, the Warriors had already turned the ball over five times.
Payton first checked in at the 4:07 mark of the first quarter. The Warriors already found themselves in a seven-point hole, down 19-12. The next time the Spurs had the ball, Payton immediately swiped it from Keldon Johnson.
His strong finish at the end of the first quarter highlights why everyone was so giddy for him and Donte DiVincenzo to share the floor upon the Warriors bringing Payton back at the NBA trade deadline. The two defensive menaces had Dub Nation out of their seats when the Warriors badly needed a fire lit under them.
As Curry alluded to, though, Payton's game goes beyond stats. He's a hustler. He's a pest for the Warriors' opponents. There's an unspoken confidence whenever he comes into the games.
There were a handful of times Friday night where Payton came out on top going the extra mile for a loose ball, as he did last season on the Warriors' championship run.
GP2's hustle leads to another three pic.twitter.com/Fp0P3ugEiT
— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) April 1, 2023
Smile for the camera ð pic.twitter.com/omiCuwrcTQ
— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) April 1, 2023
"We need that," Steve Kerr said. "We need that energy. We need that athleticism. We have not been a team that has been great at getting to loose balls this year. There's actually a stat and we're near the bottom of the league in retrievals of loose balls.
"Gary can help in that regard, create extra possessions and make big plays for us."
Golden State going into its win against San Antonio ranked 26th in the NBA in loose balls recovered, despite being the 11th-best team in the league at deflecting passes.
In Payton's first game back with the Warriors on Sunday night, he played 15:29 and his plus/minus was a minus-9 in a three-point loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Two nights later, Payton played only nine minutes and was a minus-14 in an 11-point win over the New Orleans Pelicans. The effect he has on games was felt from the start Friday night, in a win where he was given his most run since being back in a Warriors jersey.
GP2 was a plus-13 in the Warriors' win before boarding a plane for Denver to face the West's best in the Denver Nuggets, and his influence on the game was even greater than that.
"It feels really natural knowing that we had him all of last year and getting him back this year," Jordan Poole said. "We're glad to have him back, we know how much of an impact he has."
Though it took nearly two months to come to fruition, the Warriors' win-now move is in full effect -- making his mark ahead of the Warriors facing a test that can serve as a prove-it contest with the playoffs here in no time.