Since starting the season 1-3, the Santa Cruz Warriors have been on fire, ripping off a five game winning streak over their recent games. They currently sit in a four way tie for third in the standings, two games back from the first seed. Though their win streak has been bolstered by an easy schedule, with only one of their recent victories being a team currently in the playoff picture, the Warriors have done what good teams do in this stretch—win.
They’ve done so shorthanded, missing key guards Jeremy Lin and Nico Mannion for multiple games in this stretch with Alen Smailagić still slowly returning from a torn meniscus. Jordan Poole currently ranks second in the G League in points per game while Jeremy Lin ranks 3rd in assists per game.
The Santa Cruz Warriors play a perimeter centric style, which has led them to third in the league in three-pointers. Much like the Golden State Warriors, they emphasize ball movement, giving them a63.8 assist percentage over the five game winning streak. Their defense has also been stifling of late, their 98.6 defensive rating ranks second in the league for that stretch.
Currently in the thick of the playoff race, Warriors fans have an exciting docket of games to look forward to.
Read how the Warriors got here below.
Feb. 17, 2021
Santa Cruz Warriors vs. Canton Charge
Final: SCW-111 CTN-108
The Santa Cruz Warriors came into this game without veteran Jeremy Lin who sat out with back soreness. Although,third year big man Alen Smeiligiac returned for his first game back from injury. The Warriors dominated the first three quarters, taking the lead to start the game.. At the end of three quarters, the Warriors held a 19 point lead..
After a series of free throws, the Warriors still led by four with 8.2 left on the clock. On an out of bounds play, Charge’s Sheldon Mac got Poole up in the air and drew the foul while also making the three for a potential four point play. Mac hit the free throw sending the game into overtime.
The Canton Charge mounted a fourth quarter comeback, spearheaded by rookie guard Devon Dotson and two three-pointers from rookie guard Ty-shon Alexander. Sir’dominic Pointer spun for a layup to bring the Charge within one. Jordan Poole isolated Pointer with less than 30 seconds left and went to the basket, spinning in the post for a foul-drawing finish.
With six seconds left in OT, Mac once again got an and-1 opportunity on Poole, tying the game at 108 on a heavily contested layup. On the free throw to take the lead for the first time, Mac missed, allowing the Warriors to call one more time out.
+/-: 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.
And-1: When a player is fouled and makes the shot they were fouled on they are given one bonus free throw.
Posting Up: An offensive player puts their backside into the defensive player, attempting to move the opponent and get open.
Floater: A high arcing soft touch shot, usually meant to go over a taller defender.
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.
Out of the timeout, Kaleb Wesson posted up and bullied Charge’s Levi Randolph, shoving him off for the layup and getting fouled. Wesson sank his free throw, allowing the Warriors to claim victory.
Wesson and Mannion both had 20 point double-doubles with Wesson grabbing 13 rebounds and Mannion dishing out 10 assists. Alen Smeligiac made the most of his time on the court, putting up 19 points in 17 minutes. Poole had a relatively quiet night with only 16, but his clutch scoring was instrumental in the win.
For the Charge, veteran Antonio Blakenley led all scorers with 23 points. Mac’s clutch points added up allowing him to finish with 21 to go with five assists, and Pointer had 20 points and nine boards in the loss..
Alen Smeiligiac spoke post game about his return.
“The toughest part of rehab was just getting hurt, just sitting home by myself, getting surgery,” Smeilagiac said. “I lost a couple of pounds, I was nervous, but after surgery everything started getting better. Now I have to take it step by step, [playing] 15, 20, 25 minutes [per game].”
Feb. 18, 2021
Santa Cruz Warriors vs. Fort Wayne Mad Ants
Final SCW-113 FWN-109
Jeremy Lin began the game on the bench after missing the previous night’s game due to back soreness. The Mad Ants took advantage of a Lin-less and Rudderless Warriors in the first half, taking an eight point lead into half time.
Santa Cruz continued to fight but the Mad Ants held them off through three quarters. The Warriors clawed back in the fourth and a floater from Dusty Hannahs gave them the lead with five minutes remaining. The Mad Ants were able to tie it back up with two minutes left but a clutch Lin three and Poole midrange dagger made this one a two possession game, putting it out of reach.
Jordan Poole led with 37 points, shooting over 50 percent from the field, continuing his efficient scoring. In his return, Lin scored 27 points on 14 shots, along with seven assists. Rookie Kaleb Wesson dominated the glass with 15 rebounds and 10 points to finish with a double-double. Former high school phenom Jalen Lecque led the Mad Ants in scoring with 21 points while center Oshae Brissett had 20 points and 12 boards.
Coach Weems spoke postgame on Poole’s big performance in the win.
“He’s starting to figure it out, more than anything you have to trust your teammates and the ball will come back to you,” Weems said. “He is not just a scorer, he’s a playmaker. I’m proud of him and the way he performed tonight.”
Feb. 20, 2021
Santa Cruz Warriors vs. Salt Lake City Stars
Final: SCW-109 SLC-104
With the Warriors having won three of their last five games, they hoped to keep up their strong momentum against the Salt Lake City Stars. The Warriors came shorthanded, missing their two starting guards Jeremy Lin and Nico Mannion, both of whom were at this point top five in the G League in assists. Lin had been dealing with back soreness and Mannion had a calf contusion.
The Warriors started this one ahead, but a strong second quarter from Yogi Ferell had the Stars only down three at the half. The Warriors were able to maintain the lead through the third,but late in the fourth quarter, the Stars made a run to get the lead. Malik Benlevi hit the clutch free throw to increase the Stars lead to two.
Out of the out of bounds play, Warriors’ Kaleb Wesson set a perfect screen to free up Jordan Poole for a wide open layup to tie the game. Paul White was unable to hit the potential game winner for the Stars, sending the game to overtime. The Warriors again jumped to an early lead, but gave up a potential four point play to Ferrell, which would have tied the game. The referees ruled that Ferell’s foot was on the line, making a free throw not enough to tie. Poole and Dusty Hannahs sunk their free throws off of intentional fouls and the Warriors won in overtime.
The Warriors displayed an even attack with six players in double figures. Leading those players was Poole with 19 points, continuing his prolific scoring season in the G-league. For the Stars, Ferell dominated with 28 points in the loss while second year shooting guard Mike Scott helped out with 18.
Feb. 22, 2021
Santa Cruz Warriors vs. Agua Caliente Clippers
Final: SCW-129 ACC-90
The Santa Cruz Warriors came into this game riding a three game winning streak and hoping to extend it against the Agua Caliente Clippers. The Warriors were still shorthanded, missing their two starting guards Lin and Mannion.
The Clippers led early in this one, with a four point advantage at the end of the first quarter. That lead was short-lived because of a dominant second quarter spearheaded by Kaleb Wesson and Ryan Taylor off the bench. During that run the Warriors caught fire leading to a blowout victory.
For the Warriors, Axel Toupane led the starters with 24 points. Toupane racked up four rebounds, four assists and four steals. Ryan Taylor was a key player off the bench scoring 23 points and dropping in a game high six three-pointers. Wesson also stuffed the stat sheet tonight — he bolstered 19 points on two for three shooting from the outside. Isaiah Reese, although quiet, led the squad with a +33 evening.
“Reese, I put a lot of trust in him,” said Coach Kris Weems after the big win. “It’s just great to have guards that understand what they’re doing”
Feb. 23, 2021
Santa Cruz Warriors vs. Iowa Wolves
Final: SCW-108 IWA-95
The Santa Cruz Warriors continued to be red hot coming into this game having won four in a row, despite still not having Lin and Mannion. But the Warriors came out of the gate slow as the Iowa Wolves quickly ran up an 11-2 lead.
Center Kaleb Wesson got the start after an impressive outing the night before, but was pulled just four minutes into the first quarter due to foul trouble. After the substitution, the Warriors were able to cut into the lead and keep things close through the third quarter before finally pulling away in the fourth. Though the outside shot wasn’t falling, the Warriors were able to establish a paint presence and feast on second chance points, a new dimension for the team.
“The good thing with us not shooting well from three is that we were 51 percent from the field overall,” said Coach Kris Weems after the victory. “[We’re] feeling good about the ball movement, sharing the ball, attacking the basket, and either getting to the rim or kicking it to someone open.”
For the Warriors, Jordan Poole bounced back from a tough Monday night to finish with 29 points and 12 rebounds. Dusty Hannahs provided the only consistent outside shooting, going three for five from deep and ending with 15 points. Mavericks NBA assignment Nate Hinton provided the spark that allowed the Warriors to pull away with three key baskets in the final frame. For the Wolves, Lindell Wiggington led the scoring attack providing 24 points off the bench.