JP, JK tease new era of Warriors basketball in win vs. Hornets originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
SAN FRANCISCO – The Warriors opened the door to disaster Tuesday night, and didn’t quite know how to close it. The concern level went through the Chase Center roof because they knew Stephen Curry was not available.
So, the kids came to the rescue.
With a game that never should have gotten close – and wouldn’t have if not for tricked off possessions and stretches of cold shooting – Jordan Poole and Jonathan Kuminga combined for 16 of Golden State’s 21 points in the fourth quarter, making sure it didn’t slip away.
“It builds their confidence,” Thompson said after the 110-105 victory. “And then I know it build’s coach’s confidence to be able to trust them.”
The last five minutes, with JP and JK combining for 11 points as Golden State outscored Charlotte 12-7, teased an intriguing new era. We’ve seen the four-ring vets – Andre Iguodala, Curry, Green and Thompson – work splendidly in tight moments on the biggest of stages. Their accomplishments are on record.
We’ve seen Poole, 23, play the hero before, last season and again this season, vanquishing stubborn opponents with his sharp shooting and a variety of slithery moves that break down defenses. He did it again on this night.
“Jordan closed the game well with a couple spin moves and layups and found JK for a dunk on one,” coach Steve Kerr said. “We need his ability to break the defense down and create offense for us and he did a good job of that tonight.”
JP needed a highly effective sidekick. Enter Kuminga.
The second-year forward, who turned 20 in October, rarely gets meaningful minutes late in close games – and never an entire fourth quarter. But Kerr stayed with him. Even as the Hornets chopped away an 11-point deficit to pull into a tie, Kuminga was on the court for all but two seconds of the fourth.
“We went with him for his defense,” Kerr said. “He’s playing really well defensively, and he was guarding LaMelo (Ball) and I just wanted to stay with him because of the impact he was making on the ball and with his energy. He made huge plays defensively and that kind of led to a couple offensive plays.
“. . . He was rewarded for that defensive effort. He was just brilliant.”
While being largely responsible for Ball shooting 7-of-25 (28 percent) from the field, Kuminga finished with 14 points, on 6-of-6 shooting from the field, while submitting six rebounds, two assists and two steals.
It was in the fourth quarter, though, where Kuminga found a level not seen in any of his previous 100 NBA games. Called for a loose-ball foul with 4:57 remaining, he gritted his teeth and balled his fists and conveyed an elevated air of determination.
What followed was JK shoving the absolute best of his game down the throats of the Hornets.
Kuminga shot 3-of-3 from the field in the final three minutes, with two dunks and a crafty floater. He added three rebounds (two by using brute force), one assist and a pivotal steal, yanking the ball away from Hornets big man PJ Washington with 3:16 remaining and the score tied 101-101.
“He looked like Andre Iguodala on that play,” Kerr said. “That’s an Andre-type play, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence. Andre’s been mentoring him throughout the season and last year.
“(Kuminga) has really come a long way. The focus on being a defensive stopper over the last month, he’s kind of found a role and settled into it.”
Warriors not named Poole or Kuminga scored five points on 2-of-11 shooting in the fourth quarter. JP and JK combined to shoot 7-of-9 for their 16 points.
“Incredibly proud,” Thompson said of Kuminga. “I mean just huge buckets down the stretch while playing full court defense on-ball. Without him, his effort, we would not have won tonight. So, I’m incredibly proud of JK, he's just coming into his own.”
This finish bodes well for the future and perhaps can be used to inspire more moments when the youngsters on the roster collaborate to do what the vets have done for a decade.
Kids don’t grow up in one night, but every step forward is a sign of progress.