OAKLAND — Mark Jackson received a congratulatory text message from Hall of Famer Reggie Miller that might have seemed a bit strange after his Golden State Warriors grinded out a win against the Western Conference’s worst team.
Big or small, no Warriors win goes unnoticed or is insignificant these days.
David Lee had 26 points and nine rebounds, Klay Thompson scored 19 points and Golden State brought its surprising road run home with a 103-96 victory over the struggling New Orleans Hornets on Tuesday night.
“He congratulated us on the win, but he also said how impressive it was because of the first game being back at home after success for a young team,” Jackson said of Miller, a longtime NBA friend and former broadcasting colleague. “For us, it could’ve been a setup game. But I’ve got a different group in there. They deserve a whole lot of credit.”
After going 6-1 on the season’s longest road stretch, the Warriors built a 14-point lead in the second quarter and held off the Hornets late. Golden State (17-8) is off to its best start since the 1991-92 season, when the team began 21-8.
A franchise that has missed the playoffs 17 of the last 18 seasons is suddenly starting returning to its winning ways.
“One of the hardest games in the NBA to play is your first game back at home after a road trip,” Lee said. “I’ve been through too much losing to be disappointed in a win.”
Ryan Anderson scored 28 points off the bench and Anthony Davis had 15 points and 16 rebounds in his first start in a month for the Hornets, who lost their eighth straight to fall to 5-19 this season.
Carl Landry and Jarrett Jack each scored 16 points to help Golden State hold off their former team, with each making a pair of free throws in the final minutes. New Orleans sent Jack to Golden State as part of a three-team deal with Philadelphia, and Laundry signed a free-agent deal with the Warriors.
While Jack called facing the Hornets “just another game,” Landry laughed off that notion.
“Not for me. And I don’t think it was for him. Not at all, man,” said Landry, who added nine rebounds. “Jarrett was extra amped-up and I was too, man. We didn’t need a 5-hour (energy drink), we didn’t need a speech, we didn’t need nothing like that. We were ready to play yesterday.”
The Warriors hadn’t played at Oracle Arena since Dec. 3 and treated fans to a video montage of the road trip during pregame introductions. They controlled the pace for most of the game, but the Hornets almost erased all the good vibes with a frantic fourth quarter rally.
Davis caught a half-court pass from Greivis Vasquez and converted a layup over Landry for a three-point play that capped a 14-4 Hornets run to tie the game at 92-92. Landry answered with two free throws, Stephen Curry made a pull-up jumper and Jack added another pair from the line to put the Warriors ahead 98-92 with 1:24 remaining.
“It’s just a tough loss for us, especially when you tie it up, you have a chance to win. All you need is a couple stops and a couple of buckets,” said Hornets coach Monty Williams. “We just haven’t found that closing mentality, a couple guys who can knock down a shot or even get to the free throw line.”
The Warriors extended the momentum from their East Coast trip — which included a win at defending champion Miami — and added some style points, too.
Curry’s left-handed pass off the dribble split two defenders en route to rookie Festus Ezeli, who tapped the ball to Lee for a dunk. And on the last play of the first quarter, Charles Jenkins brought an announced sellout crowd of 19,596 roaring to its feet with a buzzer-beating baseline jumper.
Landry kept the surge going in the second quarter when he started a three-point play with a reverse layup over Roger Mason. He flexed his biceps in celebration and made the free to give Golden State a 38-24 lead.
Williams had restructured the Hornets’ starting lineup in hopes of shaking the losing streak. Anderson came off the bench and Robin Lopez moved from center to power forward to make room for Davis.
Davis, the top pick out of Kentucky in June’s draft, started for the first time since Nov. 17 at Milwaukee. He had come off the bench the previous four games after sitting out 11 games with a left ankle injury.
The result remained the same.
“They just had some great plays at the stretch,” Anderson said. “We were getting stops but we made some mistakes down the stretch, and we weren’t running the plays right at the end. Just little things, a little slippage.”