The Warriors -- the short-handed, undersized, nothing-to-play-for Warriors -- pushed the Los Angeles Lakers to the brink Tuesday. But then Kobe Bryant woke up.
The Lakers' star guard, after being blanked for the first 11 minutes of the fourth quarter, knocked down two clutch baskets and a pair of free throws to stave off the Warriors' upset bid. Bryant's game-high 30 points helped the Lakers beat Golden State 104-101.
"The guy is an incredible basketball player, in the discussion with anybody that has every played," Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. "That's exactly why he gets paid the big bucks."
The Warriors are 3-7 since trading guard Monta Ellis. But Tuesday's game was another example of the grit and fight Golden State has shown since the trade. Five of those losses were by single digits, including four decided by five points or fewer.
Golden State currently has the ninth-worst record in the NBA. But Jackson said he was proud of his guys after Tuesday's display of resilience. Perhaps nobody embodies that more than small forward Dominic McGuire.
He played 29 minutes off the bench Tuesday. He finished with four points, seven rebounds, five assists and three blocks. On defense, he defended Pau Gasol, the Lakers' 7-foot, 250-pound power forward. On offense, he played point forward.
"The biggest thing with Dom is he's a great locker room guy," Warriors forward David Lee said after totaling 23 points and nine assists. "He's a guy who's going to give a lot of effort every time he's on the floor and he provides a lot of stability for us, especially defensively. ... He's a guy that you know has got your back and you've got to do the same for him. It becomes contagious."
McGuire's play was contagious Tuesday night. He had two blocks and four rebounds in the fourth quarter, inspiring a Warriors squad that entered the quarter down 79-72. Even usually reserved forward Brandon Rush was visibly caught up in the intensity of the game en route to a season-high 23 points.
For a moment, it looked as if Golden State had risen to the challenge and would knock off the third-ranked team in the Western Conference. Lee put Golden State up 97-95 with a hook over Gasol at the 1:22 mark. The Warriors, once down by as much as 16, had all the momentum as the Lakers called a timeout.
To that point, Bryant was 0 for 2 in the fourth quarter.
But he got the ball on the left wing with Warriors rookie Klay Thompson defending him. Bryant dribbled toward the baseline -- away from Rush, who was coming to double team -- and pulled up for a 19-footer. That tied the score at 97.
On the Warriors' ensuing possession, Thompson had his runner blocked by Lakers forward Metta World Peace. When the Lakers got the ball back, Bryant went back to the same area. This time, with Rush on him and Thompson coming with the double-team, Bryant drilled another 19-footer. The Lakers led 99-97 with 32.3 seconds left.
"On that last shot," Rush said, "my hand hit his hand. So I thought it was good defense. He's one of the greatest players to play the game, and he managed to make the shot. That's what he does."
"It said, 'About time,' " Jenkins said with a smile.
Jenkins' 27-point performance at Portland was a product of Jenkins finally unraveling his ability in the game. He has shown flashes in previous appearances, but the rookie in him hadn't allowed him to strut.
Jackson has raved about him from day one. His teammates implore him to be aggressive. Many fans have sensed Jenkins has more to his game.
"That's the key to being a rookie, playing your part," Jenkins said. "We've got a lot of scorers on this team. My job was to facilitate, run the team."
Part of Jenkins' strengths when the Warriors selected him in the second round (No. 44) was that he had the skills to play multiple styles. He has the size, the talent and the mentality to be a floor general.
But with the Warriors down the first two point guards, Stephen Curry and Nate Robinson, the opportunity was created for Jenkins to bring the other part of his game. You know, the guy who left Hofstra as the school's all-time leading scorer.
"He's got a midrange game," McGuire said. "He can get to the cup. He's got some game. He just needs to be more aggressive."
Certainly, the expectations on Jenkins are higher since what he cost the Warriors. Partly because of their faith in him, the Warriors waived Jeremy Lin, who wound up becoming a star in New York.
Since the trade of Ellis, Jenkins has gradually gotten more aggressive and has shown some of why the Warriors like his game so much. In the span of nine games entering Tuesday, Jenkins had taken 61 shots, 22 in Sunday's loss at Portland. Before that, Jenkins totaled 50 shots in 23 games.
Against the Lakers he finished with 12 points and three assists in 26 minutes.
"Charles Jenkins is a guy we have tremendous trust in," Jackson said. "It won't be Jenkins-sanity, but he is a guy that is more than capable of going out and doing the job. We're pleased with his progress."