Golden State Warriors find hero in Harrison Barnes

Updated:   05/12/2013 05:24:48 PM PDT

OAKLAND — With regular-season top scorers Stephen Curry and David Lee hobbled, it was pretty clear Sunday that the Warriors needed their top draft pick to turn up the heat on offense in Game 4.

Harrison Barnes did just that —- full flame. The rookie forward pressed the attack from the outset and took a career-high 26 shots, and while making just nine of them, still scored a career-high and team-leading 26 points to go along with 10 rebounds in the Warriors’ 97-87 overtime victory over San Antonio.

Goodness, Harrison, 26 shots?

“Never in my life,” said Barnes, rolling his eyes, as aghast as everyone else that he channeled his inner Kobe Bryant when the Warriors needed it most. He launched nine more shot than he’d ever previously taken as a pro.

“I didn’t try to go out there to necessarily hunt for shots,” said Barnes. “A lot came off dribble-drive. Even though I wasn’t making a lot of them, I just continued to be aggressive, put pressure on the defense.”

Barnes also came up big in the overtime, making a pair of free throws that gave the Warriors an 88-84 lead with 4:02 left. Then after two scoreless minutes of defensive struggle between the two teams, Barnes faked a drive and pulled up for a 14-footer from the left wing to make it 90-84 with 2:21 left. That pretty much did it for the Spurs.

Throughout the game, though, Barnes was repeatedly the Warriors’ man to attack the basket from wing and prevent the San Antonio defense from overplaying the perimeter.

“Steph was more of a stationary guy most of the night and Harrison did a great job of being aggressive,” said coach Mark Jackson. “We put him in pick-and-roll situations when they switched, we put the ball in his hands and he made some big-time plays.”

Barnes also played 51 minutes, and was a major part of Golden State’s defensive stand in the fourth quarter and overtime. Not bad for a player who won’t celebrate his 21st birthday until May 30.

“This guy is way more wise beyond his years,” said Jarrett Jack. “He carried us for much of the game. He did a tremendous job of leading the way and attacking the basket, and we kind of followed his lead.”

Tactically, Barnes taking the ball to the basket may have been the most important development in the win, center Andrew Bogut said.

“When H.B. is aggressive and slashing, it creates a different beast,” Bogut said. “Then you can free up Steph and Klay (Thompson) on the perimeter and it keeps the defense honest.”

“The guy has grown up before our very eyes,” said Jackson. “He was off the charts in the regular season, which put us in position to be the sixth seed, and he has elevated his game in the postseason. I thought he took big shots, he’s a guy who’s not afraid of the moment and obviously a guy who embraces the bright lights.”

Even though he was 9-for-26 from the field, Barnes compensated by going 7-for-7 from the line. The key thing is he got fouled because he forced the situation.

“I looked up at the scoreboard as I walked off and said, `Dang, hell of a game,’ ” Curry said, referring specifically to Barnes’ performance. “We needed that from him. Don’t worry about shot attempts, just make plays in the paint. I didn’t have that ability much in this game, so for him to use that space for us and make plays for us, that was huge.”

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