Upon arriving in Oakland on March 11th, 1993, Drazen Petrovic was playing some of the best basketball in his entire NBA career. At that point, the New Jersey Nets’ sharp-shooter was by far the most efficient three-point shooter in the whole NBA, hitting treys at a 47.9% rate. It seemed that all cylinders were clicking for the rejuvenated Nets coached by Chuck Daly and paced by 3rd-year athletic point guard Rumeal Robinson.
The sudden re-emergence of the point guard who was brought in from Atlanta in exchange for Mookie Blaylock was the critical factor in sparking some of the Petrovic’s most inspired games. That evening in the Oakland Coliseum Arena, with both Chris Mullin and Sarunas Marculionis sidelined with injuries, ‘Petro’ faced the NBA’s future at the shooting guard position – the Warriors’ lanky 6’5″ rookie sensation Latrell Sprewell.
The following season, Sprewell earned his first All-Star berth.
During the opening stage of the game, ‘Petro’ made a characteristic, clever use of the sets and screens. When he was open, he openly demanded the ball from his teammates.
On one occasion, he found himself isolated with 6’9″ Rod Higgins guarding him. He always felt that he could take advantage of taller players guarding him. So, he used his patented euro-style crossover through the legs, got rid of Higgins, and then smoothly ‘cashed in’ with a mid-range jumper.
It was Rumeal Robinson, who was on his way to earning the NBA’s Player of the Week for the weekly honors from March 7th-March 14th, 1993, who tirelessly kept feeding him the ball in the right spots. ‘Petro’ continued his shooting clinic, hitting shot after shot, over any defender assigned to him by the Warriors’ head coach Don Nelson, who was aware of Drazen’s expertise from the mid-1980s.
Sprewell really couldn’t do much to cope with ‘Petro’ in his prime, so he began to foul him, thus sending him to the line. The trips to the ‘charity stripe’ always meant ‘easy money’ for one of the NBA’s most prolific shooters. ‘Petro’ went on to score 13 of his first 23 points in the 3rd quarter alone. Not knowing what to do next, Nelson assigned 6’5″ rookie defensive specialist Byron Houston the task of guarding the red hot Petrovic, but without much success either.
Late in the game, ‘Petro’ put an exclamation point with a deep trey, with Sprewell’s hand right in his face! That night, he lit up the Warriors with 28 points on 11-15 shooting, while also dishing out five dimes. This game is one of the prime examples of what Petrovic could do in his NBA prime when teamed up with a team-first oriented point guard such as Rumeal Robinson. Unfortunately for Petrovic, just 11 days later, he injured his left knee in a game vs. the Bullets.
Looking at the 1992-93 NBA season’s statistical leaders lists reveals that Drazen Petrovic and Kenny Smith were the only two guards in the League who were able to make their way up to that season’s TOP 20 league leaders in the field goal percentage category. Petrovic made it by shooting 51.8% from the field.
Basketball Network contributor Murray A. a.k.a. Marjan Crnogaj is the 1980s and 1990s basketball specialist, proud author of the Amazon.com TOP 100 basketball biography ‘Drazen – The Years of the Dragon’.