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Warriors wisely summon JTA in 'dogfight' game vs. Sixers originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
SAN FRANCISCO – With the Warriors snoring through most of the first half, trailing a compromised squad of 76ers by as much as 19, it was inevitable that coach Steve Kerr and his staff would realize what was missing.
Grit. Good, old-fashioned, dirt-under-the-fingernails grit.
Moreover, Kerr knew where to get it. From the kid who grew up on 95th Avenue, in deep East Oakland, where grit is one of the requirements of survival.
And Juan Toscano-Anderson responded wonderfully, his presence softening the Sixers early before he commenced to smacking them around and, finally, shoving them off the floor as the Warriors thundered back for a 116-96 victory Wednesday night at Chase Center.
“When we are in a game like tonight, that’s kind of a dogfight, he’s the guy you put out there,” Kerr said.
Some players rack up numbers. Some bring muscle. Some bring stability amid disorder. JTA brings an unmistakable zeal, which on this night led to team stability and personal numbers. He finished with 12 points, on 6-of-6 shooting, six rebounds, six assists and two blocks. He was plus-21 over 25 minutes.
The minutes total is notable because it’s JTA’s longest this season in a game in which the regulars were not being rested. He had a very clear goal. Bring some spice and keep bringing it.
“You feel a different spirit because of how much it means to him and how he knows he can influence and impact games and the fact he is always ready to do that,” Stephen Curry said. “Anybody can kind of skill their way into it with some flashiness and all that type of stuff, and he just has that dog in him that comes out and is contagious. We feed off of that.”
Down 19 at one point, the Warriors closed the first half with a 13-4 run to get back in the game. They then outscored the 76ers 64-35 in the second half – during which JTA played a team-high 19 minutes.
The 6-foot-6 wing who was not in the rotation 10 days ago suddenly was too effective to take off the floor.
To see JTA’s explosive fourth quarter, which Golden State entered with an 86-84 lead, is to wonder how on earth that could happen.
There was the roaring dunk over massive Philadelphia center Andre Drummond, giving the Warriors 96-88 lead with 7:49 remaining. Then, two minutes later, there was JTA soaring above the traffic to grab a Jordan Poole miss and slam it through the rim. That was followed 51 seconds later by a gorgeous no-look dime to Gary Payton II for a dunk.
“He was all over the place, assisting, rebounding, but the energy is contagious,” Andrew Wiggins said. “He got the fans into it, he got the team into it, and gave us that next level of push.”
JTA either scored or assisted on all but one Warriors’ field goal over a six-minute stretch during which their lead grew from six to 16.
“It's so great as a coach to know you can always count on a player, like Juan, who could start, he could be your eighth man he could be your 12th man,” Kerr said. “But you always know what you're getting. Players love playing with him, coaches love to have him out on the floor because of his energy because of his brain.”
Toscano-Anderson, 28 and late to the NBA, knows his role. He accepts that his greatest asset is one his teammates have come to expect.
“They’re going to get a junkyard dog,” he said. “I’m not afraid to do the dirty work, whatever it is. I’m just going to play hard all the time. I love this game and I’m appreciative to have the opportunity.”
Spoken like a man acutely aware of the broken glass and beautiful flowers that have accompanied his journey. JTA gets it, and there’s always room for a player like that.