Don Nelson is just two victories away from becoming the NBA's all-time winningest coach after the Warriors dispatched the New York Knicks 128-117 on Friday night at Oracle Arena.
Nelson would like nothing more to have the Warriors win at least twice on their upcomiong four-game road trip so he can put all of this talk behind him. One question is how much guard Monta Ellis will be able to help in that endeavor.
Ellis missed his third straight game with the flu. He will not make the trip to Toronto for Sunday's game against the Raptor,s and his status for the rest of the road trip in uncertain.
Ellis had tests done Friday afternoon to determine the exact nature of his illness, the results of which were still not known at press time. Nelson and general manager Larry Riley said before the game that they had not spoken to Ellis. Guard Anthony Morrow, who scored 35 points in the win over the Knicks, said Ellis "hasn't been feeling that well at all."
"It's been hard. But at the same time, we're used to doing it. He's been out before," said Morrow, who has now scored 30 points or more four times in his NBA career. "Every time he's been out, guys have had to step up and learn how to really play. I think it helps our chemistry as well."
Morrow scored 20 points in the second half as the Warriors withstood a third-quarter rally by the Knicks. After trailing by 14 points at halftime, New York cut the Warriors' lead to 81-80 with just over four minutes left in the third quarter. But the Warriors regrouped to take an eight-point lead at the end of the third quarter and had a commanding 15-point lead four minutes into the final quarter.
"Well, there was a (Morrow) sighting tonight, good to see," Nelson said. "He struggled a little bit with his shot of late and with Reggie (Williams) playing quite a few minutes, his minutes suffered a little bit along the way."
The Knicks' David Lee finished with 37 points, 20 rebounds and 10 assists, becoming the first NBA player since the Los Angeles Lakers' Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1976 to have a 30-point, 20-rebound, 10-assist game. That was also against the Warriors.
"I don't want to discredit what he did tonight, because he had a great game. But the rest of us didn't support him the way we needed to tonight," Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni said. "It obviously is pretty good, no matter how you do it, when you do it or what side of the game you finish on. He's been putting up some good numbers and you have to give him credit for that."
Warriors center Ronny Turiaf had seven points and five blocks, all of which came in the first quarter. With the Warriors leading 22-21, Toney Douglas had a steal, streaked toward the Warriors basket and appeared to have an easy layup. But Turiaf blocked the shot, then raced up the court to put back a missed Stephen Curry 3-point attempt to give the Warriors a three-point lead.
The Warriors led 34-32 at the start of the second quarter but went on a 23-5 run over the next six-plus minutes. They never trailed again.
"I was actually trying to give myself a spark. I'm still a little sick. I can't breathe really hard so I can't really do what I want," said Turiaf, who missed Wednesday's game at Utah with the flu. "I was a little sluggish so I just tried to go for the offensive rebounds and get some easy stuff."
After Toronto, the Warriors play at Washington on Tuesday and Minnesota on Wednesday before they close out the road trip on Saturday in Los Angeles against the Clippers. Nelson now has 1,331 wins, one behind Lenny Wilkens for the NBA all-time lead.
"We want to get him the record but we also want to finish the season strong," said Williams, who finished with 23 points. "Not just the wins for the record, it would be nice to win them all. Just build on this for next season, carry the momentum to next season."
Coaching to the top
Most wins by an NBA coach: