The Golden State Warriors were incredibly short-handed going into their game against the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday night. Not only was Andre Iguodala out with a hamstring strain that he suffered this past week, but Andrew Bogut was suspended by the NBA for his role in altercation that he was involved in on the floor this past weekend.
However, the Warriors were still able to come out on top versus New Orleans by a score of 102-101. As usual, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson helped anchor Golden State with offensive performances as did solid games from Harrison Barnes and David Lee. However, it was Bogut’s replacement in the starting lineup, veteran Jermaine O’Neal that pretty much stole the show.
In just 26 minutes of time on the floor, the 35-year-old O’Neal put up 18 points and eight rebounds while hitting on a stellar nine of his 12 shot attempts. The 17-year veteran dipped into the time machine for this game and looked like the player that was once considered one of the best big men in the league, even if it did catch a lot of people by surprise.
In his nine games this season prior to Tuesday, O’Neal had largely been ineffective as the Warriors’ backup center. In 17.3 minutes per game, the big man was averaging just 5.2 points and 3.8 rebounds per game on just 36.8 percent shooting. Though he’s certainly logged a lot of miles, he hadn’t performed at the level the Warriors had hoped he would to start the year.
On a nightly basis, Golden State doesn’t need a near double-double from O’Neal, but they do need him to be a reliable and efficient option as a reserve. He showed on Tuesday that he still has that type of ability left in the tank, but he’ll also need to sustain that type of solid play as he returns to the bench with Bogut coming back from the suspension.