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Can Warriors' bench consistently keep them in games late? originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
If the Warriors want any chance at making a run for or in the playoffs, they will have to figure out how to survive the Steph Curry and Draymond Green-less minutes.
Those minutes -- at the end of the first quarter into the second, and the end of the third into the fourth -- have been make or break stretches for Golden State, and more often than not, it's broken them.
But on Friday night, the Warriors gave a glimpse of how their bench can survive.
Heading into the fourth quarter against the Washington Wizards, the Warriors found themselves down six. But after a 16-6 run in the first six minutes of that quarter, Golden State's second unit got them a four-point lead by the time Curry and Green checked back in.
It was the first time in a long time that not only did the bench allow the Warriors to hang in the game, but actually gave them a lead.
"There are things that we can take away from tonight, despite the outcome, to keep us optimistic moving forward, and I think the play of the second unit to start the fourth quarter ... is a bright spot," Kent Bazemore said.
"[Jordan Poole] making plays for us ... [James Wiseman], [Damion] Lee hitting shots, it's all about rhythm and I think we're getting comfortable," Bazemore said. "If we can give our starters that push on a nightly basis, more times than not we're going to come out on the right side of things."
What Bazemore said about doing it on a "nightly basis" is where the emphasis needs to be right now.
Heading into the fourth quarter, when the second unit made the push to put the Warriors in position to win, Lee was the only player to have scored off the bench. On the other side, the Wizards' bench had 23 points.
By the end of the night, Washington's second unit outscored Golden State's 32-14, with 10 points coming from Lee and the other four from Bazemore.
Lee takes the blame for the Warriors' last-second loss to Washington because of a miscommunication with Green. After inbounding the ball to Green, it looked like Lee was going to set a pin-down screen to get Curry open. But Lee slipped the screen. Green found him cutting the hoop, and it looked like Lee would have a wide-open layup. But Deni Avdija met him at the rim, and Lee attempted to kick the ball out to the corner, only to throw it away.
"That's completely on me," Lee said. "I've got to be better in those situations. I hold myself to a high standard, the team holds me to a high standard and I have to be better in those situations. I can't cost us a game."
But in most cases, it's not just one play that loses a game. On Friday night, Golden State made numerous mistakes throughout the night, especially early on. One of those being the inability to score. If the Warriors found a way to get their bench to be more active, Lee might not have been in the position he was in for the final seconds.
That's all hearsay. But, finding consistent production off the bench has been an issue for the Warriors all season long. You can chalk it up to inexperience -- both from an individual level and group level -- but four months into the season and just 20 games remaining, there has been little progress.
Friday night's fourth-quarter stretch was the first substantial sign of hope in a while. The group of Lee, Poole, Wiseman, Bazemore and Andrew Wiggins is looking like a cohesive unit, and probably will be the one Kerr rides for the rest of the season.
But just as with so many other parts of this Warriors season, something will be good one game, and then disappear the next.
Golden State must find a way for this group to stay consistent and survive the minutes when Curry and Green are on the bench, especially if Kerr is committed to not heavily increasing his stars' minutes.