SALT LAKE CITY -- Jonas Jerebko was feeling his way through his new team, showing up early, staying late and always projecting professionalism. Until Friday evening, he didn’t have much to show for his commitment.
His coming out could not have been timed any better for the Warriors, or for Jerebko. Facing the Jazz, for whom he played last season, in an arena he knows well, he made the play that saved what had been a long, treacherous night.
Jerebko’s tip-in of a Kevin Durant miss with 0.3 seconds remaining lifted the Warriors to a 124-123 victory, delighting his teammates and breaking hearts all over what had been a roaring throng at Vivint Smart Home Arena.
“It felt great,” Jerebko said. "Being back here, I had a great time here. To come back, I said I wanted a win, so it felt great.”
It looked even better. After Jerebko’s tip dropped in, he was mobbed by so many Warriors the bench was practically vacant. Because the clock showed zeroes, officials were busy determining how much time might be left. The Warriors in their celebration were almost oblivious to that.
Utah’s last shot, a prayer by Donovan Mitchell, hit the side of the backboard and the Warriors ran into the locker with the joy that comes with a stirring comeback.
“It was an amazing moment,” Stephen Curry said. Curry scored 22 of his 31 points in the second half, when the Warriors wiped out a 16-point deficit.
“I didn’t see how he got to that position, to get the offensive rebound. It was a timely tip-in. Once I saw him go crazy, I knew time was almost out. It’s a great moment. He’s new to the team and made a big play, especially being back here in Utah.
“I know it’s early in the season, but these type of games are exciting and fun. We’re thankful to get the win, so we’ve got to celebrate accordingly.”
Jerebko’s game-winner capped off a night when he made a considerable impact. Coming off a scoreless six-minute stint in the season opener, Jerebko came off the bench with 5:03 left in the first quarter and took exactly 30 seconds to do what the Warriors wanted when they signed him as a free agent in July.
He drained a 3-pointer. He buried another triple with 2:45 left in the quarter on his way to 10 points and six rebounds over 24 minutes. Jerebko was 4-of-5 from the field, including 2-of-3 from deep.
“It’s always nice to see the first one go in,” Jerebko said. “But I feel real comfortable shooting the ball. I’ve got great players around me, so if I’m open I’m going to shoot it.”
The Warriors were trailing most of the second quarter, all of the third and for the first five minutes of the fourth. Kevin Durant, who scored 24 points in a lackluster first half for the Warriors,
Golden State needed everything it got from Jerebko, along with 38 points -- 24 in a marvelous first half -- from Durant and Curry’s scoring output. Draymond Green rallied from a fitful first 39 minutes to play a strong final nine, finishing with 14 points, nine rebounds and six assists.
But this night belonged to Jerebko, who as a free agent signed a one-year deal in July. Everyone in the locker room was smiling, but no one’s grin was bigger than his.
“He’s one of us,” Kerr said. “Anytime you’re a new guy with a team, you’re trying to make your mark. You do it in practice by going hard. You do it with your work ethic.
“But as soon as you hit a game-winner, that pretty much solidifies it.”
The Warriors need Jerebko to provide scoring off the bench. He did on Friday.
And he did it with style.