OAKLAND, Calif. -- Mark Jackson has called himself a "flow coach" since he started with the Golden State Warriors this season, imploring that he will ride whatever works no matter how unconventional it seems.
Jackson proved so much against his predecessor.
Brandon Rush scored 15 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter to spark a late rally, and the Warriors spoiled former coach Keith Smart's return with a 93-90 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday night.
Rush finished 4 for 5 from 3-point range and highlighted a 9-0 run to start the final period that carried Jackson past the man who had his job a season ago. Jackson sat stars Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis for almost the entire fourth quarter, riding his bench with a curious move that paid off big.
"Anytime you've got some home-run hitters in that starting lineup, it's a tough decision because you know what you're going to get offensively," said Jackson, also the architect of sending Magic center Dwight Howard to the free-throw line a record-setting 39 times in a loss earlier this month.
"But I've been part of teams as a player where the coach would stick with the hot hand and then look my way with 5 minutes, maybe 4 minutes left," Jackson added. "In all honesty, it's awfully tough to do. I can remember as a player saying, 'Coach, if you're going to wait that long, stick with the guy that's out there, because he's better than me at this point.'"
Sure worked out that way this time.
Tyreke Evans had 22 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists and DeMarcus Cousins added 21 points and 14 rebounds in Sacramento's fifth straight loss. The Kings (6-15) are in last place in the Pacific Division, just behind Golden State (7-12), and 4-10 since Smart took over for the fired Paul Westphal.
"I take responsibility for a few things that I did out there that I won't do again," said Smart, choosing not to elaborate. "That's between me and myself."
Only fitting that coaching decisions decided this one.
The Warriors held Sacramento scoreless for more than six minutes late, including the first 5:17 of the fourth quarter, until Cousins converted a difficult fadeaway jumper. Before that, Golden State had scored nine straight -- all from reserves, who totaled 43 points for the game -- highlighted by Rush's 3-pointer to go ahead 76-68.
Rush had two more swishes from beyond the arc in critical moments. He gave the Warriors an 11-point lead with the first and, just when Sacramento started to gain momentum, Rush hit another with 3:28 remaining that put Golden State in front 88-76.
Curry entered in the fourth with 15.1 seconds remaining, giving Golden State a four-point lead by making one of two free throws. After Jason Thompson made a quick layup, Sacramento sent Nate Robinson to the line. He hit both free throws to again put the Warriors ahead by four before Golden State sweated out a last-second heave by Evans at the buzzer.
"I wasn't worried about getting taken out tonight," Rush said. "The bench, we played pretty good. I like playing with those guys on the bench. We come out with a lot of energy."
The coaching dynamic dominated the latest edition of the Northern California rivalry.
The Warriors ousted NBA career wins leader Don Nelson before training camp last season and hastily appointed Smart, an assistant for eight seasons with the franchise. Golden State finished with a 36-46 record, a 10-game improvement under Smart from the previous season.
Still, he never stood a chance.
New Warriors owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber wanted to make their own hire, cutting ties with Smart and signing the more flamboyant Jackson -- the former Knicks and Pacers point guard and ABC/ESPN broadcaster who had never coached at any level.
Lacob sat in his usual courtside seat for Smart's return, just three spots to the right of Kings co-owner Gavin Maloof. All five Warriors starters extended hugs and handshakes to Smart before tipoff, following a pattern set by scores of arena security guards and ushers during pregame warmups.
All the sentimental moments ended there.
Evans scared Sacramento after a foul by Ekpe Udoh in the second quarter sent the 2009-10 NBA Rookie of the Year tumbling to the ground. He landed awkwardly, twisting his right knee, and team trainers attended to Evans for about a minute before he walked to the bench under his own power.
Evans shook off the spill and put on a dazzling dribbling display, slicing between defenders and overpowering Golden State's smaller guards. He made a 3-pointer that gave Sacramento a 44-36 lead late in the period, setting off light cheers from Kings fans sprinkled around the arena.
Golden State pulled to 47-all on a jumper by Ellis early in the third quarter before Sacramento answered with six straight points. Jackson called timeout and regrouped with reserves.
The Warriors never looked back.
"There are no selfish guys on this team," Curry said. "We understand coach made the decision to stick with those guys. They took the game home for us."
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