Warriors Reserve Puts Up ‘Revenge’ Game Against Former Team

Nemanja Bjelica

Getty Nemajna Bjelica drives to the basket in a game against the Detroit Pistons.

Nemanja Bjelica picked a fitting time to have his best game of the season.

The Golden State Warriors reserve, who has been stuck at the back end of coach Steve Kerr’s rotation at times this season, went off for season highs of 19 points and 12 rebounds in Sunday’s critical win — and did it against his former team, the Sacramento Kings. Bjelica’s performance came at just the right time, with the Warriors fighting for playoff seeding but also resting a number of key players in the closing end of a back-to-back.

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Bjelica Comes Through

The Warriors forward had his most complete game of the season on April 3, also adding six assists and two blocks. Bjelica set the tone early, making his first four shots and taking over in the second quarter, either scoring or notching an assist on seven of the team’s first nine made shots. As Dalton Johnson of NBC Sports Bay Area noted, the performance was likely a relief for fans hoping that the Serbian big man would return to his sharpshooting form.

“Nemanja Bjelica has been one of the Warriors’ most frustrating players among the fan base this season. There also is no denying his impact has been felt much more lately,” Johnson wrote.

Johnson added that Bjelica has been steadily improving over the last two months, becoming a scoring threat that can stretch opposing defenses.

“The 6-foot-10 big with range shot 20 percent on 3-pointers in January while going 6-for-30. In February and March combined, he nailed 40 percent of his 3-pointers (8-for-20),” he wrote. “Against the Kings, Bjelica started off making his first four shots from the field and his first two 3-pointers. He finished with a season-high 19 points in 30 minutes, made three 3-pointers and also had a double-double with 12 rebounds.”

Warriors Preparing for Playoffs

Bjelica’s performance helped the Warriors to remain entrenched in the No. 3 spot in the Western Conference, one game ahead of the Dallas Mavericks. He also helped to put some distance from the team’s weeks-long slump. Prior to a victory on April 2 over the Utah Jazz that clinched a playoff berth, the Warriors had lost seven of their previous eight games.

The Warriors started the weekend with a come-from-behind win over the Jazz, erasing a 16-point fourth-quarter deficit by hitting six straight three-pointers. After Sunday’s win over the Kings, Warriors big man Draymond Green said the team isn’t getting too worried over where they’ll end up in the seeding.

“It’s not something that we’ve spoke about much,” Green said, via NBC Sports Bay Area. “I think we’ve more so spoke about playing the game the right way, doing the things that we know is going to make this team successful. But as far as the seeding, no. That’s not something that we’ve really spoken about.”

The Warriors are already ahead of last season. Their wins over the weekend guaranteed that they finish no lower than sixth, keeping them out of the play-in bracket. The Warriors fell in the play-in tournament last season, finishing the season in seventh place but losing consecutive games to the Los Angeles Lakers and Memphis Grizzlies to stay out of the playoffs.

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