It took coach Mark Jackson well into the third quarter Tuesday to find an advantage to exploit. And when he found it, he rode it to a 93-90 victory over NorCal rival Sacramento.
The advantage was the second unit, known as the Dub-stitutes: guard Nate Robinson, swingmen Brandon Rush and Klay Thompson, forward Dominic McGuire and big man Ekpe Udoh. Those five turned a nervously close game into a much-needed Warriors victory.
Golden State's bench outscored Sacramento's 43-21. In the fourth quarter, Golden State's backups outscored the Kings' starters 25-11.
Rush scored 15 of his team-high 20 points in the fourth quarter and totaled six rebounds in 24 minutes. Robinson had 11 points and five assists in 23 minutes.
"The second unit did a great job of just battling on the defensive end," Jackson said. "And we got quality offensive trips. Even when we did not make shots, we got what we wanted out of it. They did a great job of bringing it home."
The Kings figured to have the advantage inside, led by center DeMarcus Cousins. And that played out as expected. Sacramento dominated the boards (53-38) and points in the paint (48-28). Cousins had 21 points and 14 rebounds.
The Warriors (7-12) figured to have the advantage in the backcourt. But that didn't play out as expected. Golden State's starting backcourt of Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry combined for 15 points on 6-for-24 shooting.
Kings guard Tyreke Evans -- 22 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists -- outplayed both of them by himself (rookie Jimmer Fredette added a measly five points in 20 minutes).
Jackson sat his starting guards the entire fourth quarter, save for the final seconds when he brought Curry in to shoot free throws.
Ellis, over his last three games, totaled 29 points on 12-for-43 shooting. Curry finished with three points on 1-for-7 shooting and is now 7-for-23 in his last two games.
"There are no selfish guys on this team," Curry said.
A Cousins jumper put Sacramento ahead 65-58 with just over three minutes left in the third quarter. But Golden State, led by several reserves, closed the quarter with a 9-3 run.
Robinson came off the bench to score seven points during the run as the Warriors trailed just 68-67 entering the fourth quarter.
Jackson stayed with the reserves to start the fourth quarter. They energized Oracle Arena with a 9-0 run to start the final period to take a 76-68 inside of eight minutes left.
"We have great chemistry in the second unit," McGuire said. "Everybody comes in, plays hard and plays defense. Ekpe and I try to handle the defensive part and let everyone else get buckets."
Moments later, Robinson banked in a fall-away to put Golden State up 78-70 and force a Sacramento timeout.
Out of the timeout, Jackson stuck with the reserves again. They rewarded him by increasing the Warriors' lead. While the starters cheered from the bench, Golden State put together a 10-6 run over the next three minutes. Rush knocked down two 3-pointers during the stretch, the last giving Golden State an 88-76 advantage with just over three minutes left. Rush has made 14 of his last 17 attempts from 3-point range.
A couple of baskets by Kings guard Isaiah Thomas put a scare into the Warriors, especially his deep 3-pointer with 2.8 seconds left that cut Golden State's advantage to 91-90. But Rush knocked down a pair of free throws to seal the victory.
"Anytime you've got some players, some home run hitters on that starting lineup, it's a tough decision," Jackson said. "Because you know what you're going to get, offensively especially. ... The bench guys just played great. I've always said, if you want to play, force me to leave you in. And those guys did exactly that. They deserved to win or lose this ballgame."
"I would like to play a little bit more, but this is the situation," Biedrins said Monday. "I have to accept it. I have to do what they tell me to do. That's the way it is."
That isn't the way it was against Sacramento. Jackson leaned heavily on Biedrins, who set a season-high with 25 minutes, finishing with five points, three rebounds and three blocks. He played the entire first quarter, which is rare considering he averages just 16.5 minutes per game.
More rare: Biedrins got four shots in the first quarter, all out of set post ups. Biedrins -- who hadn't scored a point in his previous four games, and hadn't taken a shot in the last three -- converted a three-point play by making his first free throw of the season.