The Santa Cruz Warriors are blazing their way into the postseason on a hot streak, rattling off nine straight victories and clinching a playoff berth with their 10-3 record. Despite losing key players to injury or NBA call ups, Kris Weems’ squad has persevered and been rewarded with a spot in the single elimination playoff. 

The Warriors are currently top five in the G League in points per game, field goal percentage, three pointers made, three point percentage, and lead the league in free throw percentage. They’re also top five in both net rating and defensive rating and haven’t lost a game since Feb. 15. A title may be coming to Santa Cruz sooner rather than later.

The Warriors face the Rio Grande Valley Vipers and the Oklahoma City Blue on March 5th and 6th, respectively. These two opponents will offer the Warriors a real challenge, as the Vipers have won their last four and the Blue only trail the Warriors by a game and a half. But the Kris Weems- led Warriors have stepped up to every challenge thus far; they will have to defend their first seed, it remains to be seen if they’re up to the task. 

Find out how the Warriors extended their win streak below.

Feb. 25, 2021

Santa Cruz Warriors Vs. Memphis Hustle 

Final: SCW-116 MHU-111

Jeremy Lin remained out with lingering back issues from earlier in the month. The Warriors were up early in this one, leaving the first quarter up 31-21. The Memphis Hustle quickly responded with a second quarter push capped off by a buzzer-beating three from Memphis point guard David Stockton, bringing the score to 61-60 in the Warriors’ favor.

Basketball 101
+/-: Point differential in a single game when a player is on the court.
Clutch: Positive actions near the end of close games.
G League: The NBA’s minor league or development league for fringe NBA players.
Dagger: A late game shot to extend the lead large enough that a made shot from the opposing team doesn’t tie or win the game.
From the field: all non free throw shot attempts are “field goals” so a player’s percentage from the field is how many shots they made over how many they attempted.

The second half became a back-and-forth slugfest with both sides active for the last two quarters. With the Warriors up one with a minute left, Jordan Poole came off a dribble hand off and spun into the lane for a finger roll finish. A breakaway dunk from Warriors forward Axel Toupane sealed the game, allowing the Warriors to survive the Hustle for their sixth straight victory. 

Nico Mannion popped for the Warriors with a 12 point, 12 assist double-double. It was another day at the office for Poole, who had 26 points on 50 percent shooting. The stats understate how dominant Mannion and Poole’s passing was in this game — both threaded the needle multiple times on difficult passes. Dusty Hannahs contributed 21 points on eight for 13 from the field from the wing. David Stockton, son of NBA legend and all-time assists leader John Stockton, kept Memphis in the game, with 33 points including 25 in the first half. Ahmad Caver scored 25 points for the Hustle.

Feb. 27, 2021 

Santa Cruz Warriors Vs. Long Island Nets 

Final: SCW-108 LIN-88

The Warriors extended their win streak to seven despite missing Jeremy Lin due to a back injury. The Nets fell behind early on with the Warriors holding the lead through the third and into the start of the fourth quarter. Two minutes in, however, a quick run by the Nets had the Warriors down by one. The Warriors quickly responded with a run of 11 straight points, led by Nico Mannion and Nate Hinton, to close a comfortable win.

It was Nico Mannion’s night for the Warriors, finishing with 25 points and eight assists. Ryan Taylor was also effective off the bench, dropping in five three-pointers and finishing the night +25. The Warriors as a unit played stifling and energetic defense all evening but turned up the intensity to close Long Island out with the final run.

Coach Kris Weems spoke about how teams finish games strong.

“Runs always start with the defensive pressure, pressure on the ball, being in your gaps and understanding who you’re guarding,” Weems said. “And then once they start to get in their patterns, making sure you’re in the right positions and then going, contesting, and making their shot tough.”

Feb. 28, 2021

Santa Cruz Warriors Vs. Austin Spurs 

Final: SCW-109 AUS-104 

The Warriors sought to claim the longest win streak of the G League season as theirs on Sunday morning with the help of Jeremy Lin, who made his return to the starting lineup. 

Four key Warriors players were listed as out: Kaleb Wesson with a knee issue, Axel Toupane and Dusty Hannahs with ankle issues, and leading scorer Jordan Poole with an unspecified lower leg injury. Teams often rest players on the second night of back-to-backs, and the Warriors depth this season allows them to do so while retaining confidence in their ability to win games. 

On the second night of the back-to-back, the Warriors came out looking hungry and kept pace with the fresher Austin Spurs team, earning a six point lead at the halfway point. The Spurs fought back, jumping ahead in the third quarter by six.  Setting up a fourth quarter showdown, both teams traded the lead back and forth. 

The game stood tied with 1:20 remaining on the clock. Lin shook his man off to sink a mid-range jumper to bring the score to 102-100 in favor of Santa Cruz. After a steal by Warriors forward Nate Hinton, Nico Mannion tried to get the ball to Lin to ice the game but flubbed the pass. The ball rolled to the hands of Warriors guard Isaiah Reese, who hit a stepback dagger to put the Warriors up five with less than a minute left. The Spurs couldn’t make up the deficit as the Warriors secured their eighth straight victory.

The dynamic duo of Mannion and Lin carried the Warriors in this game, each having four assists and scoring 27 and 25 points respectively. Isaiah Reese’s clutch bucket was part of an efficient 17 point performance off the bench. Nate Hinton also stepped up in Wesson’s absence scoring 14 points and grabbing 13 rebounds.

March 2, 2021

Santa Cruz Warriors Vs. Erie Bayhawks 

Final: SCW-121 ERI-91 

The Santa Cruz Warriors had an early morning matchup with the first seed Erie Bayhawks, and were short multiple guys going in. Jordan Poole, Nico Mannion and Nate Hinton were called up to play with their NBA teams, leaving the team without two of its three leading scorers. 

It didn’t end up mattering, as Axel Toupane scored seven of the Warriors first nine buckets to jump out to a 19-5 lead. There wasn’t any doubt in this one as the Warriors led by more than 30 points for large stretches of the game before waltzing to victory. 

Axel Toupane’s hot start helped him rack up 22 points to go with his seven rebounds. Veteran Jacob Evans had 24 points while only missing three shots the entire game and also finishing with seven rebounds. Alen Smailagic filled up the box score with 13 points, 11 boards, seven assists, two steals and two blocks, a stat-stuffing performance by the second year NBA player. For the Bayhawks, Jalen Adams scored 20 points in the losing effort.