LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Kevin Durant spewed steady fires but Jonas Jerebko was an unlikely catalyst as the two-time defending NBA champions Golden State held off the Dallas Mavericks 120-116 in Oakland, California, on Saturday.
On a team that features the superstar quartet of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, it was Sweden’s Jerebko receiving a massive ovation as he departed in the fourth quarter having scored 23 points in 21 minutes with three assists and six rebounds.
Durant led the Warriors with 29 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists, but Jerebko’s relentless energy was crucial to the Warriors’ victory.
“He shot the ball really well, but he got a lot of offensive boards, too,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “He had several plays that got the crowd into it with his hustle. He gave us a huge lift.”
Jerebko scored nine points in the fourth quarter — contributing a tip-in, a dunk and a three-pointer as the Warriors powered to a 111-96 lead.
He was back on the bench as Golden State saw their lead cut to one point.
Dallas forward Harrison Barnes’ three-pointer with 33.5 seconds left bounced off the rim and Durant drained a three-pointer to seal the win.
The victory saw the Warriors, who have struggled to find the same dominance they displayed in their past two championship seasons, improve to 22-11, just a shade off the Western Conference lead shared at 21-10 by the Denver Nuggets and Oklahoma City Thunder.
Denver had a one-game lead heading into the day, but suffered their biggest defeat of the season in a 132-111 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.
Danilo Gallinari and Tobias Harris scored 21 points apiece for the Clippers, who snapped the Nuggets’ four-game winning streak.
“I just thought our tempo set the tone,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “Our pace tonight, maybe as good as I’ve seen. We never stopped.”
Serbian forward Nikola Jokic led the Nuggets with 19 points before he was tossed in the third quarter when he received two quick technicals for arguing a foul call.
Jamal Murray added 18 points and Monte Morris chipped in 15 for the Nuggets, who hadn’t lost by more than 10 points this season.
It came down to the wire in Salt Lake City, where Paul George scored 43 points to lead the Thunder in a 107-106 victory over the Utah Jazz.
Bradley Beal’s first career triple-double and an historic night for center Thomas Bryant propelled the Washington Wizards to a 149-146 victory over the Phoenix Suns in a triple-overtime thriller.
Beal’s 40 points included 10 in the third overtime. He added 15 assists and 11 rebounds for his first triple-double — reaching double digits in three key statistical categories.
Bryant connected on all 14 of his shots from the field and three of three from the free throw line on the way to a career-high 31 points.
It was just the seventh game in NBA history in which a player made at least 14 baskets without a miss and the first since Gary Payton did it almost 24 years ago.
“He was the MVP of the game,” Beal said of Bryant. “Everybody wants to talk about my triple-double... TB was by far the MVP tonight.”
Elsewhere, the Philadelphia 76ers wore down injury-depleted Toronto, beating the league-leading Raptors 126-101.
The Raptors arrived in Philadelphia minus three of their top players in all-star Kawhi Leonard, Serge Ibaka and Jonas Valanciunas, and the Sixers took full advantage.