The Warriors closed the book on their 2021 campaign, a season unlike any other for this team. Reporters who cover the Warriors sat in the press conference waiting room and talked about how this team felt much closer and tighter knit than previous iterations.
“I’ll lose in the semis with [these guys] any day, any night,” Warriors star Jeremy Lin said after the game.
A stunning nine-game winning streak helped Santa Cruz recover from the rocky 1-3 start of the season, allowing them to claim second place in the regular season. Despite call-ups and injuries, the Warriors persevered. Although they were eliminated in the semi-finals, Kris Weems and his staff have a strong foundation to build on. Santa Cruz has a competitive team, and people in the county should start to take notice.
Read about the final games closing out the Warriors’ season below.
March 5, 2021
Santa Cruz Warriors vs. Rio Grande Valley Vipers
Final: SCW-94 RGV-110
The Warriors and Vipers both looked to maintain their winning streaks in a matchup that revived an old rivalry between the teams’ NBA affiliates, the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets. The Warriors constantly nipped at the heels of the Vipers. Both teams fought hard, but in the end the Warriors ran out of gas and were unable to mount a full comeback. Santa Cruz’s win streak was snapped at nine and Rio Grande gained a better position in the playoff race.
Kevin Porter Jr. was the Vipers’ engine, racking up 21 points, 8 assists, and 9 rebounds on the game. Recent Vipers addition Anthony Lamb had a 24-point double-double. For the Warriors, Jeremy Lin and Axel Toupane both had 20 points in the loss. The Warriors were resilient and kept the game in reach, but it just wasn’t their night.
G League: The NBA’s minor league or development league for fringe NBA players.
Put Back: a shot made immediatley after catching the rebound of a shot a teammate missed
Dagger: A late game shot to extend the lead enough that a made shot from the opposing team doesn’t tie or win the game.
Playoff Seed: Where each team is ranked in the league which in turn decides playoff opponent. The closer to 1 you are, the easier your opponent should be.
March 6, 2021 (Final game of the G League regular season)
Santa Cruz Warriors vs. Oklahoma City Blue
Final: SCW-113 BLU-103
The Blue jumped on the Warriors early, building up a quick lead. The Warriors looked sluggish until Nate Hinton hit a tough layup in the first quarter, giving the team newfound energy. With this momentum, the Warriors closed the lead and the game became extremely close into the half. The Warriors came out in the second half using a smaller lineup to deal with the Blue’s size. The additional spacing and passing proved to be effective as the Warriors headed into the fourth with a three-point lead of their own.
The Blue, fighting for their last chance at a playoff spot, made the fourth quarter a grueling battle, with Blue rookie Ryan Woolridge scoring a putback basket to tie the game with 20 seconds left. Santa Cruz was unable to score in the last possession, sending this game to overtime.
Lin opened up overtime with a step back three-pointer late in the shot clock. The Warriors rolled from there, with Isaiah Reese hitting a dagger from the left side of the court. 10 straight points in overtime allowed the Warriors to win their final game of the season and finish their season on a high note.
Reese bounced back from not scoring at all in the previous game to score 29 points, including 5 three-pointers, and dished out 11 assists. Jeremy Lin continued a brilliant comeback season for the Warriors with 26 points and some impressive game management. The Blue utilized a balanced attack with only two of their players scoring less than 8 points. Big man Moses Brown led the Blue with 18 points and 13 rebounds in the loss.
In the G League, only the eight best teams make the playoffs with the first seed playing the eighth seed, the second playing the seventh, and so on. This year the playoff is a single elimination tournament, so a win means advancing to the next round and a loss sends a team packing.
March 8, 2021
Santa Cruz Warriors Vs. Rio Grande Valley Vipers (G League Quarterfinals)
Final: SCW-110 RGV-81
Playoff seeding meant the Warriors got a rematch against one of their four losses from this year, only three days after they lost to the Vipers. The Warriors came out like a team with a vengeance, taking the lead in the first quarter and not giving it up afterward. Santa Cruz outscored the Vipers in every single quarter of this game, resulting in a blowout victory in the Warriors favor.
Veteran Forward Axel Toupane played like a man possessed this game, perfectly utilizing his superior athleticism and shot to score 24 points and snag 11 rebounds while only missing 3 shots the entire game. Forward Ryan Taylor hit 5 three-pointers, contributing to his 17 points that evening. Six Warriors finished this game in double figures allowing Santa Cruz to roll onto the next round of the playoffs. For the Vipers, Rookie Trevelin Queen did everything he could to keep this one interesting, scoring 35 points and sinking 7 shots from downtown.
March 9, 2021
Santa Cruz Warriors Vs. Lakeland Magic (G League Semifinals)
Final: SCW-96 LAK-108
Both teams in this matchup came off dominant victories in the quarterfinals to set up an exciting semifinal showdown. While Santa Cruz took care of business against Rio Grande Valley, the Lakeland Magic upset the higher seeded Erie Bayhawks to set up this two versus six seed matchup.
This one was close throughout the first half with the Warriors entering the break with a 2 point lead. The third quarter continued the back and forth battle with the Magic claiming a 4 point lead going into the final quarter. The Warriors came out flat in the fourth, looking like a team whose legs were failing them in their most important game of the year. Santa Cruz fought hard but Lakeland seemed to win every 50/50 ball, make their shots and played lockdown defense down the stretch. A pair of missed free throws midway through the fourth seemed to take the last hope out of the Warriors as the Magic claimed victory.
Forward Robert Franks led the way for the Lakeland Magic with 23 points including 5 three-pointers, to go with 7 rebounds. Lakeland got help from almost everyone on their roster with four of their reserves in double figures on the game. Jeremy Lin’s 20 points were the lone bright spot for Santa Cruz in this game. Axel Toupane took 17 shots with only three going in, as he tried to will the Warriors to victory, but inevitably faced defeat.