OAKLAND – On a night when the Warriors really needed the Brandon Rush of old, he showed up at Oracle Arena.
After playing a total of 83 minutes through the first 17 games, the veteran wing played 19 minutes Saturday night. Starting in place of injured Harrison Barnes, Rush turned in his most productive game in more than three years.
“Hearing my name being called for the starting lineup was a big confidence boost,” Rush said.
His line: 16 points, on 5-of-8 shooting, including 4-of-5 from beyond the 3-point stripe, in a 120-101 win over the Sacramento Kings. It was the kind of performance Rush and the Warriors have been hoping to see.
“The guys loved it and we’re obviously thrilled for Brandon,” interim coach Luke Walton said. “He puts in a lot of time and on most teams, he probably would be getting some minutes. But we’re deep and it’s tough to get everyone out there.
“Hopefully, that continues to build on his confidence.”
It was Rush who ignited the third-quarter spurt that put the Kings away. He scored 11 points in less than four minutes, as the Warriors raised a 56-46 score to 72-50. Rush scored 14 points in the quarter.
Not since April 22, 2012 – his first season as a Warrior and the best offensive year of his career – has Rush had such an impactful offensive game. A lot has happened in the 43 months since then.
He sustained a devastating injury to his left knee – tearing his ACL and MCL – on Nov. 2, 2012 that wiped out his entire season. He was traded to Utah in 2013, playing sparingly while continuing to mend.
Rush returned to the Warriors as a free agent in July 2014 but never reached peak conditioning, lost his confidence and spent most of the season on the bench. He vowed to bounce back this season, and this was his most persuasive game so far.
“He works hard and stays ready,” Steph Curry said of his teammate. “So it’s nice to him rewarded for it.”
Said Draymond Green: “It’s just about getting that confidence back. It was good to see him out there shooting the ball with confidence and just playing with overall confidence, because I know he’s still got a lot in the tank. And he showed that.”
It was a welcome sight for the Warriors, who don’t know how long Barnes will be sidelined. They do know that Rush looks ready. He certainly was Saturday night.