With center Andrew Bogut suspended and Andre Iguodala out indefinitely with a hamstring injury, the Golden State Warriors knew Tueday’s nights game was going to be more difficult than normal. What they didn’t know was just how close the game would end up. But thanks to Jermaine O’Neal, the Warriors pulled out a one-point victory, 102-101.
O’Neal got the start for the absent Bogut, and stepped up immensely for Golden State. In all of his 18-year career, O’Neal had never hit his first five shots from the field — he accomplished that Tuesday night against the New Orleans Pelicans. O’Neal finished with 18 points and nine rebounds on 9-of-12 shooting.
O’Neal was huge for the Warriors all the way through the fourth quarter; he hit the final shot of the game for Golden State with 2:12 remaining.
You have to be happy for O’Neal. He has battled injuries throughout the latter part of his career, and hasn’t scored 18 points in a game since May 3 of last season when he was a member of the Phoenix Suns. The six-time All-Star was coming off a leg injury that forced him to miss the last few games, but he knew he needed to bring substantial production into the paint for his team Tuesday night, and he followed suit.
The Warriors had been in a bit of a slump and I’m not too sure you can take away a completely positive vibe from this near loss to the feeble Pelicans, but O’Neal was a main player in preventing Golden State was drifting further into panic mode. Golden State lost its previous three games and is about to head out on a stretch where they’ll play seven of the next eight on the road, so starting off the road trip on the right foot was crucial.
O’Neal helped bring a bit of ease back to head coach Mark Jackson and the Golden State locker room, but his continued contribution will be needed to succeed over the Warriors’ next eight games.