Ever since training camp opened, Warriors captain Stephen Jackson has insisted the key to repeating the success of last season's 16-5 finishing kick was to bring the scrappy, hellacious defense that defined that run.
As if to prove his point, Jackson went out and showed Sunday what a motivated Warriors team can do on defense, holding the Toronto Raptors to just two points over a critical 6-minute stretch of the fourth quarter to wrap up a 106-100 victory.
Jackson scored a team-high 17 points and added five assists, but his work at the other end of the floor was what made the difference, limiting Toronto's Chris Bosh to 11 points, six off his season average.
"Well, it's good to have Stephen Jackson back in our lineup," Warriors coach Don Nelson said. "We sure missed him."
With 15 or more points from four players Jackson (17), Kelenna Azubuike (16), Baron Davis (16) and Andris Biedrins (15) the Warriors were able to withstand a 29-point, nine-assist, six-rebound game from Raptors point guard T.J. Ford.
Nelson joked about how "well-rested" Jackson was in discussing his 41 minutes on the floor, but Jackson's defense on Bosh was no joke. It's doubtful any other Warrior could have tied Bosh down in a similar way, pestering him into a 4-for-12 game.
"I'm not going to lie to you and say that I wasn't (winded)," Jackson said. "I just fought through it, and I really used all my energy on defense (today) ... I wanted to give Chris Bosh the hardest time I could, and I was able to do that."
Bosh dropped a 22-footer over Jackson's outstretched hand with 6:19 remaining for a 93-91 Raptors lead. But until the 17.9-second mark, the Raptors got only single free throws from Jamario Moon and Bosh, and the Warriors (2-6) used the 13-2 run to put away a second straight win.
During that span, Toronto missed all 12 shots from the floor, six 3-pointers. The Raptors, who scored just 12 points in the fourth, also turned the ball over twice and clanked four free throws.
Most impressively, the Warriors limited the Raptors who had been enjoying easy penetration from Ford throughout the first three quarters to just one shot of less than 19 feet.
Austin Croshere's first 3-pointer as a Warrior gave his new team a 96-94 lead with 3:51 to go. Then three possessions put the game away: a trey from Azubuike in the right corner; a turnover from Ford, charging headlong into the teeth of a collapsing defense; and finally a tricky 18-foot fadeaway from Davis to make it 103-95 with 1:41 left.
"The momentum definitely shifts our way, and maybe they start changing from an attacking, offense-minded team to a team that's a little bit on their heels, a little bit where (they feel) 'We've got to make a shot,'" Croshere said. "We sped the game up a little bit, and they weren't able to knock down their shots."
With Jackson looking to make plays for others at the offensive end, the touch pass returned to the Warriors, leading to a pair of easy layups in the second quarter. And with Jackson handling ball on the perimeter, the Warriors were able either to post up Davis, or give him a rest, something seldom seen over the previous seven games when he played at least 40 minutes.
Davis played only 36 minutes Sunday, and perhaps not coincidentally, he scored nine points in the fourth quarter.
"(Jackson's) poise, his veteran leadership really kept us close, and I was able to get some rest for the fourth-quarter push," Davis said.
NOTES: Rookie center Kosta Perovic was sent down to the Bakersfield Jam, the Warriors' affiliate in the NBA Development League. The move had been talked about for weeks as the 22-year-old, inactive for five of the Warriors' seven regular-season games, was clearly not ready. "He's going to go down there and play some minutes," Mullin said. "I thought he was making pretty good progress. ... When asked the reasoning behind signing center DJ Mbenga and releasing rookie forward Stephane Lasme, Warriors executive vice president Chris Mullin said, "It's not so much an indictment on him, or anyone else, It's kind of balancing the team out." He was alluding to starting center Andris Biedrins getting five fouls, and his only other backup, Patrick O'Bryant, fouling out against the Clippers on Friday night. ... Warriors coach Don Nelson originally scouted Mbenga and brought him over from the Congo in 2004.
... Jackson wore a headband with the number "22" written on its back in honor of forward Matt Barnes, who is home in Sacramento with his ailing mother. ... Jessica Alba, in Toronto shooting "The Love Guru" with Mike Myers, had a baseline seat next to Cash Warren. ... Mbenga will be the first Warrior to wear No. 28.