OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) – David Lee knows Golden State is doing things few expected. Still, even he was a bit surprised by the Warriors’ latest milestone.
Lee had 25 points and 12 rebounds and the Warriors held off a late charge in the fourth quarter to beat the Philadelphia 76ers 96-89 on Friday, securing Golden State’s 20th victory of the season.
It’s the first time in more than 30 years that the Warriors have reached 20 wins before New Year’s Day, another big achievement for a team that won only 23 games during the lockout-shortened 2011 season.
“Before the (2006-07) ‘We Believe team? Wow,” Lee said. “We’re getting back into the Run-TMC stuff, huh? Was this back in Cazzie Russell in ’72? We’re just trying to make our own history here. I don’t think our best ball’s even been played yet.”
Golden State clearly wasn’t its sharpest against Philadelphia but did just enough to beat the Sixers for the first time in more than two years.
The Warriors committed 18 turnovers and nearly blew a 20-point lead in the second half when Philadelphia made its best run of the night.
Philadelphia pulled to 84-80 on Royal Ivey’s 3-pointer with 6:23 left to play before Lee scored six straight as part of his 19th double-double this season to help Golden State pull away.
“He’s our voice in the middle,” said Jarrett Jack, who had 16 points and six assists. “No one’s really shown that they can contain him.”
Carl Landry added 15 points and 11 rebounds for the Warriors, who hadn’t defeated the Sixers since Dec. 27, 2010.
Jrue Holiday had 21 points and 10 assists for Philadelphia. The Sixers have lost eight of 10 on the road.
“We just waited too long to come back and those guys are playing real good right now,” said former Warrior Dorrell Wright, who had eight points in his second straight start in place of the injured Jason Richardson. “They’ve gotten a lot better on defense. They (used to) let you back in the game.”
Golden State (20-10) kept its best start in more than two decades going by getting balanced scoring and outhustling a pesky Philadelphia team.
It wasn’t always pretty.
The Warriors committed six turnovers in the first quarter then needed a strong fourth quarter from Lee to hold off the Sixers. Golden State had dropped its previous three against Philadelphia, including a pair of blowout losses in 2011.
Then again, Warriors coach Mark Jackson’s team has been defying expectations much of the season.
“We’ve been consistent whether we are home or on the road,” Jackson said. “We play with an edge, we play with a belief, and now our job is just to chalk them up in the win column. Mission accomplished tonight.”
Philadelphia (14-16), making its third stop on an eight-game road trip, made it difficult but came up short two days after beating Memphis 99-89.
Thaddeus Young had 19 points and 10 assists for the Sixers while reserve Nick Young had 13 points.
The Warriors led after one following Jack’s off-balance 12-footer off the glass with 2.6 seconds left.
Jack later had some fun after Wright lost his left shoe in the second quarter. Jack picked up the shoe and tossed it into the crowd behind the backboard, then raced down the court and made a 3-pointer to give the Warriors a 41-34 lead. Sixers coach Doug Collins had to call timeout to allow Wright to retrieve his shoe.
“I know the rule is that’s not a penalty but I think as a league we need to revisit that,” Collins said. “There shouldn’t be anything thrown in the stands. If you throw a ball in the stands, you’re thrown out of the game. It was a shoe and (then) a 3, sort of a double-whammy.”
Jack and Landry, who have provided a boost off the bench for Golden State, combined for 25 points in the first half and the Warriors closed on a 16-4 run to lead 57-42.
Philadelphia pulled to 59-47 early in the third but Lee scored four straight then fed Harrison Barnes with a no-look pass from atop the key for an easy layup to put Golden State up by 18.
Young provided one of the few highlights for the Sixers when he jumped from just inside the free throw line and made a soaring one-handed dunk.
Klay Thompson scored 14 points for the Warriors while Stephen Curry had 11 points, six assists and five rebounds.
NOTES: Golden State improved to 12-2 against the Eastern Conference. … Richardson was sidelined because of a sore back. … Philadelphia’s Spencer Hawes, coming off a season-high 20 points in the win over Memphis, had two points and was charged with a technical foul early in the second quarter. … Oakland Raiders wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey was among those in attendance.