With his team down 16 points in the second quarter and headed for another blowout loss at home, Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson yelled out to his players to keep shooting and keep fighting on defense.
Did they ever.
Stephen Curry finished with 34 points and nine assists, Klay Thompson scored 22 points and the undermanned Warriors rallied to beat the Chicago Bulls 102-87 Thursday night.
“You’ve got to be able to handle trials, tribulations and adversity,” Jackson said. “That’s part of the process. Simply put, don’t let go of the rope, keep on fighting and good things will happen. And that’s exactly what they did. They didn’t quit.”
With big men Andrew Bogut and David Lee sidelined with injuries, Golden State’s streaky backcourt tandem found its shooting stroke after the Warriors fell behind 34-18 in the second quarter.
Curry finished 13 of 19 from the floor and Thompson was 8 of 16 to give the Warriors’ raucous fans a reason to cheer after losing five of their previous seven at home.
“We were just trying to stay positive. No point in sulking and pouting. Nobody’s really got time for that during the game,” Curry said. “We were talking to each other, trying to figure out what was going on, what we needed to do differently, and it worked out. Just intensity and sticking to the game plan and being physical and not having any mental lapses to get over that hump. And then we were able to come out in the second half and repeat that.”
Taj Gibson had 26 points and 13 rebounds filling in as a starter after Carlos Boozer strained his left calf during warm-ups, and Kirk Hinrich scored 15 points as Chicago dropped to 2-3 on its road trip, which ends Sunday at the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Warriors shot 48.2 percent, including 50 percent from 3-point range, and got 11 points apiece from reserves Harrison Barnes and Jordan Crawford.
Golden State went ahead 91-77 with 4:54 remaining, but Chicago still gave Golden State a brief scare late.
Tony Snell and Jimmy Butler each hit a 3, and Butler followed with a pair of free throws that brought the Bulls to 91-85. Then Crawford rattled in a 3-pointer, and Butler and Curry traded baskets to keep the Warriors in control.
Joakim Noah finished with a career-high 11 assists to go with 10 rebounds and seven points, and Butler scored 14 for the Bulls, who outrebounded Golden State 45 to 39 but committed 17 turnovers. Chicago (24-25) shot 41.6 percent.
“I thought it was a winnable game down the stretch and we didn’t get it done,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said.
The Warriors seemed to hit a low point during a 91-75 home loss to Charlotte on Tuesday night in which they shot just 31.2 percent from the floor – the franchise’s lowest mark since November 2004 – and often looked lost and lethargic.
Despite Jackson’s best efforts to keep calm, optimism seemed to dwindle even more when he revealed just 90 minutes before facing the Bulls that Bogut (shoulder stiffness) and Lee (sprained left shoulder and strained left hip) would not play. Lee also will sit out Saturday at Phoenix, Jackson said.
The Warriors (30-20) still managed to match their record through 50 games last season, when they finished 47-35 to earn the Western Conference’s sixth playoff seed. They were no doubt helped when the Bulls announced just minutes before tipoff that Boozer would be out with a strained calf, which Thibodeau said “was a freaky sort of” injury that occurred during warm-ups.
Even still, the battle-without-big-men went Chicago’s way at the start.
The Bulls built leads of 29-16 after the first quarter and 34-18 early in the second behind a swarming defensive effort that swallowed up Golden State’s prolific shooters.
But Chicago’s inconsistent offense, prone to long scoring droughts without Derrick Rose, repeatedly stalled and allowed the Warriors to get out in transition. Curry captured the momentum by scoring 16 points in the second quarter, including a 3-pointer that gave Golden State a 50-46 halftime lead and had him roaring with the announced sellout crowd of 19,596.
“He was lighting it up,” Gibson said. “It was like a video game, that’s how hot he was.”
NOTES: New NBA Commissioner Adam Silver attended the game, a night after visiting Sacramento. He did not speak with reporters. … Jackson became the sixth coach in Warriors history to win 100 games. He is 100-98 in two-plus seasons. … Chicago won both meetings against Golden State last season. The Bulls and Warriors meet one more time this season on Feb. 26 in Chicago.