OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Mark Jackson is a preacher by nature and by trade, so he knows as well as anyone that a message is often lost if there’s not proof behind the process.
For the first time in his young coaching career, Jackson finally has some evidence for players that his ways might just work.
David Lee had 28 points and 12 rebounds, Monta Ellis scored 18 points and the Golden State Warriors earned their first three-game winning streak under the rookie head coach with a 102-96 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Monday night.
“It makes a big difference. When you’re trying to preach winning basketball, ultimately, you want results,” said Jackson, also an ordained minister. “It gets old saying the same things.”
Apparently the message is starting to resonate.
Rookie Klay Thompson added 10 points and fellow reserve Ekpe Udoh had nine points, including a layup with 35.9 seconds remaining that extended Golden State’s lead to five and capped a comeback from 12 points down in the second half. Golden State (11-14) also snapped a seven-game losing streak against Phoenix (12-16).
After Wednesday’s home game against Portland, the Warriors will play eight of their next nine on the road.
“The significance is that we need to get back in this race, and all we can do is win games,” Lee said. “We need to protect our home court better than we did at the start of the year. We’ve had some games that we’ve played that could’ve gone either way, teams that are around us in the standings like Houston, like Phoenix, we’ve got another one with Portland coming up that are really going to separate whether we can be in this thing or whether we’re going to fade.”
Same might go for the Suns.
Marcin Gortat had 25 points and 12 rebounds, and Steve Nash handed out 14 assists for Phoenix, playing the first of three games in three nights. The Suns face Denver on Tuesday before returning home against Atlanta on Wednesday.
“You’ve got to finish games,” Suns coach Alvin Gentry said. “We did a terrible job of finishing the game.”
The suddenly surging Warriors are building momentum in unfamiliar fashion.
Jackson gambled with smaller lineups—reminiscent of NBA wins leader and former Warriors coach Don Nelson—for long stretches in the second half against the Suns’ longer and lankier front line. The move forced Phoenix to run big men Gortat and Channing Frye out on shooters, and Golden State shot its way back despite giving away size on defense.
Jackson also leaned on his bench in the fourth quarter, and his substitutes — nicknamed the Dubstitutes for their recent contributions late—again rewarded his risk.
Thompson hit a 3-pointer in the corner and fellow reserve Nate Robinson followed with another from beyond the arc to give Golden State a 94-84 lead with 5:43 remaining.
“They just got hot right there,” Frye said.
The Suns sliced the deficit to three after Golden State went scoreless for more than 5 minutes, getting a 3-pointer from Markieff Morris, a layup by Gortat and a jumper by Grant Hill. Phoenix still wasted several opportunities to tie or take the lead, and Golden State took advantage.
Udoh blocked a layup attempt by Morris and came up even bigger on offense. Udoh, whose minutes eclipsed struggling starter Andris Biedrins again, finished a hard-driving layup through a crowd of defenders with 35.9 seconds to play.
After a missed shot by Jared Dudley, Stephen Curry made two free throws to give Golden State a seven-point lead and finish off the franchise’s first winning streak of the season.
“It’s big,” Udoh said, “just to show that you’re making strides.”
Note: The Warriors gave away a bobblehead doll of former PG Tim Hardaway to the first 10,000 fans as part of the franchise’s tribute to the “Run TMC” trio of the early 1990s. The team will hand out bobbleheads of Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin at games later this season. … Gentry joked before the game that watching budding sensation and Knicks PG Jeremy Lin, who was cut by the Warriors in December, is “like the American Idol of the NBA.”