Photo: Santiago Mejia / The Chronicle
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Jonas Jerebko had relatively modest ambitions when he signed with the Warriors last summer: popularize basketball in his native Sweden, prove he still belongs in the NBA and, hopefully, help Golden State stay atop the league.
In helping power the Warriors to a 120-116 win Saturday night over the Mavericks at Oracle Arena, Jerebko continued to overachieve, showing just how big of a steal he is on a minimum contract.
In only 21 minutes, Jerebko scored a career-high 23 points on 10-for-12 shooting to go with three assists and six rebounds. His energy propelled Golden State out of stagnant stretches. With a plus-minus of plus-14, Jerebko was a driving force on a night the Warriors also got sterling performances from Kevin Durant (29 points, 12 rebounds, eight assists) and Draymond Green (14 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, two blocks).
Never was Jerebko’s value more apparent than when he was on the bench. Jerebko was an aggressor early in the fourth quarter, pouring in nine points on everything from a tip-in to a three-pointer to a dunk, as the Warriors surged to a 111-96 lead.
That’s when, with 6:39 left, head coach Steve Kerr subbed out Jerebko for Durant. As Jerebko watched from his seat, Golden State needed less than six minutes to surrender a 20-6 run that trimmed its lead to one point.
Dallas forward Harrison Barnes’ three-pointer with 33.5 seconds remaining clanged off the rim, and Durant responded with a three to help ice the Warriors’ victory. It was a welcome escape for a team that has struggled to capture its usual dominance.
“I thought the whole basketball game, we played pretty solid,” Durant said. “We had more attempts than (the Mavericks), outrebounded them, had 34 assists and 13 turnovers. … As a team, I felt like we played great.”
A club that once relied on an immense talent advantage is facing a sobering reality: To win games, even against inferior opponents, it must execute at a high level. Point guard Stephen Curry said it well after Wednesday’s loss in Utah when he conceded that “the margin for error is a little bit smaller this year. … We continue to get everybody’s best shot against us. It’s been a grind. There’s nothing comfortable about the position we’re in.”
Never mind that Dallas entered Saturday on a four-game skid or that Golden State had plenty of rest. With Wesley Matthews (25 points on 9-for-15 shooting), rookie Luka Doncic (19 points) and Barnes (17 points) leading the way, the Mavericks were in control much of the game.
Jerebko’s relentlessness late in the third quarter provided the Warriors a much-needed boost. With little more than three minutes left in the period, he bulldozed through the key and soared in for a tip-in, getting knocked in the face by Dallas center DeAndre Jordan.
As Jerebko writhed on the court, grabbing his mouth, Warriors fans applauded his effort. It was the type of hustle play that has become Jerebko’s trademark.
“He had several plays that just got the crowd into it with his hustle,” Kerr said. “He gave us a huge lift.”
In July, when he signed a one-year deal with Golden State, Jerebko didn’t necessarily expect to even be a mainstay in Kerr’s rotation. Kerr had told Jerebko that he’d play big minutes some nights and not get off the bench others.
It wasn’t until early this season that Kerr realized just how ideal Jerebko is for the Warriors’ system. A spot-up shooter with the Jazz, he hadn’t gotten the chance to showcase the depth of his abilities. With Golden State, Jerebko is a utility man who can play small forward, power forward or center, defend several positions, hit the open three-pointer and, most importantly, play off the ball.
More than a third of the way through the season, he has been arguably the Warriors’ best bench player. And he is doing it all for the veteran minimum of $2.1 million.
“I want to get consistent minutes, so that’s why I am in the gym working and showing what I can do,” Jerebko said. “Just playing my butt off every night to get to that point. I am going to keep doing it and keep helping this team win.”
Who: Clippers (19-13)
at Warriors (22-11)
When: 5:30 p.m.
This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/warriors/article/Jonas-Jerebko-comes-up-big-as-Warriors-beat-13486906.php.