The 2016 NBA Playoffs will begin in less than a month. But the Golden State Warriors still have one unfinished business from their championship run last season.
The last item was finally taken care of Friday night as David Lee returned to Oracle Arena for the first time this season and received his championship ring. The ring was presented to Lee by Stephen Curry in a pregame ceremony.
“We get to welcome back one of our very own, David Lee, who spent five great years here,” Curry said. “He embodied what it meant to be a Warrior. He helped changed the culture here, and in that five years it all led up to this ring. So we want to thank him for all that he did for us, our organization and the Bay Area.”
Lee received two loud standing ovations in his first return to Oakland. The first time was when he was introduced as a starter for the visiting Dallas Mavericks. The crowd roared a second time when Lee finally got his hands on the ring. The Warriors showed a tribute video on the scoreboard before the ceremony.
“It was amazing,” Lee said. “I want to give the Warriors organization a lot of credit for being so first class. Putting on the tribute that they did. It was a reason why we won a championship last year and that’s because the Warriors are so first class.”
“David helped us win that championship in a year we asked him to take a backseat,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “He handled his role extremely well and came in during The Finals, when we needed him, and really came through.”
Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle expected the rousing ovation for Lee.
“When they were a struggling franchise, he was a guy who came on board here and picked them up,” Carlisle said in his pregame media availability. “He was one of the transition guys between the down years and the championship. I know that’s appreciated and I know people here will give him that love tonight.”
Lee actually received his ring a week earlier than originally planned. He was traded in the offseason to Boston. The Celtics make their only visit to the Bay Area next Friday night. However, things didn’t pan out for Lee in his return to the East Coast. He was released on Feb. 19 and was signed by the Mavericks three days later.
Once the pomp and circumstance came to an end, it was business as usual for Golden State. Klay Thompson scored 40 points, Curry had 33 points, eight rebounds and eight assists and the Warriors held off a late rally to defeat the Mavericks 128-120. Draymond Green added 19 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds.
The Warriors improved to 65-7 and extended their NBA-record home win streak in the regular season to 52 games. They are also eight wins away from breaking the record held by the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls for the winningest regular season in NBA history. There are 10 games remaining on the schedule.
Wesley Matthews led Dallas (35-37) with 26 points. J.J. Barea had 21 points and six assists. Raymond Felton and Charlie Villanueva scored 17 and 16 points, respectively. Lee finished with 12 points, nine rebounds and six assists in 23:45. The loss dropped the Mavericks into a tie with the Utah Jazz for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.
“It was a great game between two teams,” Lee said. “They made a few more plays at the end. But I though, especially us being short-handed tonight, we really fought. I was proud of our guys for going out there and fight. We just got to be a little better.”
Dallas played without Dirk Nowitzki (rest), Deron Williams (left abdominal strain), Devin Harris (personal) and Chandler Parsons. The Mavericks announced earlier in the day that Parsons will miss the rest of the season after undergoing arthroscopic surgery to address an injury to his right medial meniscus.
The Warriors continued to be without the services of Andre Iguodala (left ankle sprain) and Festus Ezeli (left knee surgery). Both are on schedule to return prior to the end of the regular season.
Player of the game: When the Warriors needed it the most, Thompson came through with 15 points in the fourth quarter. He hit four 3-pointers, including a dagger from the left wing with 67 seconds left that gave Golden State a three-possession lead. Thompson finished the night 13-of-25 from the field, 9-of-16 from 3-point range and 5-of-6 from the free-throw line.
Play of the game: Curry ended the first half by splashing a 33-footer that gave the Warriors a 14-point lead at halftime. It turned out to be a big shot because the Mavericks got to within 116-113 with 3:19 left in the game.
Two records fell: The Warriors have hit 938 3-pointers this season, breaking the previous record of 933 set by the Houston Rockets last season. The Warriors and the Mavericks combined to hit 38 3-pointers in the game, breaking the previous record of 37 set just two Fridays ago by the Warriors and the Portland Trail Blazers.
Stats of the night: The Warriors committed a season-low seven turnovers and outscored the Mavericks 47-1 in fastbreak points.
“It’s one of the strangest games we’ve had this year when you look at the stats,” Kerr said. “We beat them 47-1 in fastbreak points and we had seven turnovers. You tell me that before the game and I’ll tell you we win by 30. But that’s one of the best coached teams in the league. So even when they are down Dirk, Deron Williams and Devin Harris, they generate really good offense.
Quote of the night: Kerr did not mince words when it came to the Warriors’ defense.
“Our defense was horrific,” Kerr said. “Dallas exposed us. They ran great stuff and they made shots and they deserved all the credit in the world. But our defense was horrific. We lost focus time after time. It’s strange because usually when we lose focus, we turned the ball over. But we only had seven turnovers, season-low. So we did a good job offensively, but defensive we were kind of a mess.”