Warriors finish regular season at home with dominance, defeat Erie BayHawks 123-109
The Santa Cruz Warriors put on a show for the fans as they played their final regular season game before the playoffs and Seth Curry lit up the scoreboard.
Santa Cruz dominated from beginning-to-end against a weary Erie BayHawks team, winning 123-109 with several tremendous performances from the team before they head into the playoffs.
“I thought it was a pretty good team win,” said Warriors coach Casey Hill. “Important for us to win the last home game of the regular season for the fans, so I was pleased.”
Curry, playing in his first game since completing a 10-day contract stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers, scored 15 points in the first quarter alone on 6-of-10 shooting to help Santa Cruz (28-21) clip the BayHawks’ (16-33) wings. Curry was hot early and helped lead the way for the team’s easy victory.
“You go to the NBA, you gain confidence,” said Hill. “When you come back that confidence is fresh and there, and the ball comes off your hand a little freer. Hopefully he can continue that throughout the playoffs.”
For Curry, there was no extra motivation on the court.
“No different than usual,” said Curry. “I just go out there and play, and try to play the best I can. I felt good coming into this game.”
Curry finished with 33 points while just playing 26 minutes. He also tied the franchise-record of made three-pointers in a game (6), a record held by teammate Daniel Nwaelele. Curry said it was a positive experience for him playing in Cleveland despite his limited minutes.
“It’s a great organization, I learned a lot,” said Curry. “Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get on the court much. It was a great experience for me and hopefully it benefits me going forward.”
“The whole organization, the coaching staff was better the second time around,” said Curry in comparing his most recent stint with Cleveland as opposed to his time spent with the Memphis Grizzlies.
“Just working with me and getting some good feedback from the Cavs. I felt good in their system so it was just a better experience all the way around.”
Not to be outdone, Mychel Thompson scored eight points on 3-of-3 shooting from the field in the first quarter including a buzzer-beating three-pointer to give Santa Cruz a 14-point lead at the end of the first 12 minutes, 40-26 against the visiting BayHawks. Thompson would chip-in with 15 points total for the contest coming off the bench for Santa Cruz.
Cam Jones got things going in the second quarter for the Warriors, setting the tone with a three-pointer followed up by a layup in transition. The Warriors continued with the frenetic pace with a 7-0 run to increase their lead to 21 points before a floater from Scott Suggs of Erie stopped the run. Jones scored 25 points for the game, another stellar performance for the Northern Arizona product.
Erie chipped away at the lead with an 8-0 run before a Kiwi Gardner jumper helped turn the tide of the game back into Santa Cruz’s favor.
But slowly but surely the BayHawks crept back into the game, cutting the Warriors lead to six points with under a minute remaining in the first half. Justin Brownlee paced Erie with 18 points in the first half, but Jones responded with a heave at the free-throw line after being fouled which connected for the three-point play.
Despite leading by more than 21 points in the second quarter, it was a single-digit ballgame at the end of the first half with Santa Cruz leading 68-59. Curry scored 22 points to lead all scorers while Thompson had 13 points after the first 24 minutes of play.
Curry took over in the third quarter and continued his dominant performance. He scored 11 points in the third quarter as Santa Cruz brought their lead up to 24 points.
The Warriors played efficiently and seamlessly in the second half, committing few turnovers and making looking for the open teammate repeatedly.
It was smooth sailing for the Warriors nearly the rest of the way with the majority of the starters sitting for the fourth quarter. The BayHawks threatened late cutting the lead to 12 points with two minutes remaining, but newly acquired Karron Johnson put a stop to the short-lived run with a three-point play on a made basket with the foul. Johnson finished with 10 points in 14 minutes of play including a nice slam to accentuate the team’s victory in the waning seconds of the game.
Curry sat the entire third quarter along with Jones for Santa Cruz. Scott Suggs of the BayHawks finished with a team-high 31 points while shooting 12-of-19 from the field.
The team will be well rested heading into the regular season finale in Reno on Saturday. Nobody from Santa Cruz played more than 29 minutes in the game.
Two-time NBA D-League Defensive Player of The Year Stefhon Hannah was inactive for tonight’s game after being reacquired from the team after finishing his season in Italy. He is expected to meet with the team and play in tomorrow’s game against the Bighorns. Hill is excited to have the veteran join the team late in the season.
“It was really good timing,” said Hill. “I told him ‘Come on, you can help.’ But one thing we needed to do him is set expectations right away. He’s used to being the leader and he can’t do that with this team after 49 games.”
“It’s important for (Hannah) to show he’s back in the United States he’s willing to continue to play, he’s not taking time off so he can get summer league looks or workout with teams.”
Looking ahead to the postseason, Hill noted what the team needs to work on the most before the playoffs.
“My biggest concerns are defensively. I think our transition defense isn’t as good as it needs to be,” said Hill. It’s something we’ll focus on.”
“We’ve had a difficult time keeping (opponents) off of their own offensive glass and that’s something we’ll focus on. I think we’re in a good place in terms of our chemistry and it’s important we stay there.”
When asked about the team’s inconsistencies with their perimeter defense.
“You wouldn’t believe it, but we’re currently leading the league in defensive field-goal percentage,” said Hill. “That doesn’t say anything about the threes necessarily, but I think that’s the nature of the D-League.”
“That’ll be a focus for us depending on who we play.”
Chemistry is important for this team’s success in the postseason according to Curry.
“We just got to mesh, play well together,” said Curry. “Just use the game tomorrow to keep getting better.”