MIAMI — During moments of his 43-minute, 27-second stint in Tuesday's game, you could see rookie guard Stephen Curry with his hands on his hips, mouthpiece dangling as he sucked wind.
In the final seconds of the 110-106 loss to the Miami Heat, Warriors guard Anthony Morrow was gasping like an asthmatic, too winded to react after he missed an open 3-pointer that would've put the Warriors ahead with 12.4 seconds left.
And there's no telling if fatigue was a factor in center Ronny Turiaf dropping what coach Don Nelson described as a "great pass" from Curry that likely would've led to a game-tying dunk with eight seconds left. Turiaf topped 28 minutes for the fourth time in the past 12 games. He played as much once his first 19 games.
This is Warriors basketball for the foreseeable future — three or four guys playing huge minutes nightly, trying to will the team to victory. With guard Monta Ellis (back pain) and center Andris Biedrins (groin injury) added to the shopping list of Warriors' injuries, Golden State seems to have no choice but to squeeze every second out of its best players.
It almost worked Tuesday.
"We've been known for this lately, having seven or eight young guys," said Curry, who finished with 18 points and eight assists and is averaging 43.3 minutes his past 10 games. "We just try to compete. This is a playoff-caliber team in the East, so for us to come into their house and take them to the wire, and have three chances to win down the stretch, is a good sign for us."
Playing big minutes has caught up to Ellis. The team announced that he is likely to miss the entire road trip after Monday's MRI revealed a strained lower back.
Ellis played each of the first 41 games, averaging 42 minutes. He played the entire game 10 times during that span, one of those complete games including overtime. He also had three 47-minute outings the first half of the season.
Since then, Ellis has missed two games with a sprained right ankle, three games with a sprained left knee, and now at least five games with back problems — all in a span of about six weeks.
"A lot of us know we can't afford to be tired or hurt, unless it's something real serious," Morrow said. "Monta, he was putting on a show every night. Those little nagging injuries happen ... and the way he plays, he plays so tough that those things are going to happen sometimes. I think mostly what we get out of that is if he can go out there and put his body on the line, being the captain of this team, everybody else should do the same thing."
The Warriors had some pep in their step in the first quarter, leading by as much as six and taking a 34-33 lead into the second quarter. But for two quarters after that, they played as if they were carrying luggage. They managed just 20 points in the second quarter. They turned the ball over five times in the third after totaling four turnovers in the first half. The Heat built a lead as large as 11 points.
Heat guard Dwyane Wade sat about half the fourth quarter, and the Warriors tied the game at 91 after trailing 86-78 entering the fourth. But Wade came back with fresh legs and scored seven points and created two open 3-pointers for teammate Quentin Richardson. Wade finished with 35 points, 12 assists and six rebounds in just under 37 minutes.
Miami didn't have a player reach 39 minutes. The Warriors, on the other hand, had three starters top 40. Any question who was fresher down the stretch?
The Warriors went scoreless with two turnovers over the last 1:06.
"You've just got to take your time, pace yourself," guard C.J. Watson said after totaling 20 points and six steals. "At the same time, give 110 percent. There are no excuses."
Notes: NBA Development League call-up Reggie Williams impressed in his Warriors debut. The small forward from the Sioux Falls Skyforce totaled 10 points, five rebounds and five assists in 20 minutes. "I love him," coach Don Nelson said. "Not only can he score, but he can make a play. I can run a screen-and-roll with him. None of the other (D-Leaguers) could really do that. ... In one game, he got the respect of his teammates. ... He did just a wonderful job really, for just walking off the street and playing in an NBA game."