Jermaine O'Neal carries Warriors past Nets, 93-86
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By ANTONIO GONZALEZ
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) During a players' meeting following the All-Star break, Jermaine O'Neal promised his teammates to play the rest of the regular season like he would never play again - because he very well might not.
The 18-year NBA veteran has backed up his words more than anybody ever expected.
O'Neal had season highs of 23 points and 13 rebounds to carry the load for an undermanned frontcourt, and the Golden State Warriors held off the Brooklyn Nets 93-86 Saturday night for their third straight victory since the break.
"Whatever I have, I'm going to leave it on the able. I've said that quite a few times, but I'm dead serious," said the 36-year-old O'Neal, who missed extensive time following surgery on his wrist earlier this season. "You may have to wheel me out of here at the end of the season, but that's what I'm going to do."
With Andrew Bogut sidelined with a left shoulder injury and David Lee out with a stomach flu, O'Neal followed up his game-saving block that preserved Golden State's overtime victory against Houston on Thursday night with a vintage performance.
O'Neal shot 10 for 13 from the floor, and Draymond Green scored a career-best 18 points to go with 10 rebounds starting in Lee's place.
Stephen Curry banked in a big 3-pointer in the final minute to finish with 17 points, and the Warriors won three games in a row for the first time since the Nets ended their 10-game winning streak on Jan. 8 in Brooklyn - crediting O'Neal for leading the way in the locker room and on the court.
"He's getting an opportunity to put a stamp on what he says," Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. "It's no longer what he says, it's what he's doing."
The veteran Nets never matched the intensity.
Deron Williams had 20 points and six assists, and Joe Johnson scored 15 points for Brooklyn, which struggled to shoot from 3-point range and was just as careless passing. Brooklyn made just 2 of 21 attempts from beyond the arc and committed 16 turnovers.
"I thought we had a lot of good shots, they just didn't fall," said Nets forward Paul Pierce, who scored 11 points on 3-for-11 shooting. "Sometimes you live by the 3, you die by the 3. We should attack more, especially with them limited in their big men."
The Nets made sure the game moved at a plodding pace until the final minutes.
Johnson made an 18-foot fadeaway to tie the score at 84 with 2:22 remaining. Green followed with two free throws, then Andray Blatche converted a tying layup.
O'Neal drew a foul on the other end and hit two free throws - getting another chance after missing his second attempt because of a hitch in his release that drew a lane violation - to give Golden State an 88-86 lead.
On Brooklyn's next possession, Johnson's pass was deflected before hitting Williams' hands and landing out of bounds. Curry quickly came back by banking in a 3-pointer to put the Warriors up 91-86 with 37 seconds remaining and put the game out of reach.
The win moved the Warriors (34-22) a season-high 12 games over .500. They begin a six-game road trip - all against Eastern Conference opponents - at Detroit on Monday.
Golden State's smaller lineup gave the Nets fits from the start.
Curry hit two 3-pointers during an 18-6 run to open the game. Brooklyn's slow start compounded when Shaun Livingston left in the first quarter with a bruised tailbone after falling hard when he was fouled by Harrison Barnes going for a layup. The team said X-rays on Livingston were negative.
Just like they did in Brooklyn, though, the Nets rallied from an early deficit against Golden State's second unit. Brooklyn took the lead for the first time when Williams started a three-point play on a layup over Andre Iguodala, putting the Nets up 46-44 late in the second quarter.
They never led again.
"Even though we didn't shoot the ball extremely well from behind the arc, it was a game until the last minute," Nets coach Jason Kidd said. "On the road against a team like Golden State, that's all you can ask for."
NOTES: Green said he was in an accident driving to the game, but that no one was injured. ... Nets G Marcus Thornton sat out with a stomach illness. He has yet to play since being traded from Sacramento on Wednesday for Jason Terry and Reggie Evans. ... Warriors coach Mark Jackson said Bogut, who missed his seventh straight game because of an ailing left shoulder, will likely return at some point during the Warriors' six-game road trip. ... The Warriors signed C Hilton Armstrong to a 10-day contract, calling him from the team's NBA Development League affiliate in Santa Cruz.
Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP
Updated February 23, 2014