Curry-less Golden State extends streak to 7
WARRIORS 110, MAGIC 100 Monday
In the wake of a Stephen Curry-less Warriors team’s 110-100 win Monday night over Orlando at Oracle Arena, fans figure to sit behind their keyboards, typing about how they paid to see Curry and were instead disappointed.
Responding to those emails should be no problem. Because as much as head coach Steve Kerr wants to give customers their money’s worth, he also realizes that playing without a two-time NBA MVP will make Golden State only more prepared for the games that matter most.
“This probably sucks for the fans, and I get it, because they want to see Steph,” said point guard Shaun Livingston, who slid into the starting lineup with Curry sidelined by a right thigh contusion. “But from a basketball perspective, it’s a good thing for us . ... It could pay dividends in the playoffs.”
Though many teams would wilt without arguably their best player, the Warriors seemed emboldened by the challenge.
Four players — Livingston (16 points, six assists in 20 minutes), Kevin Durant (21 points, seven rebounds, eight assists), Draymond Green (20 points on 8for-11 shooting) and Klay Thompson (15 points, five assists) — shouldered the load to extend Golden State’s win streak to seven games.
Bench players like Kevon Looney (eight points, five rebounds in 15 minutes), David West (11 rebounds, five assists) and Nick Young (nine points) reinforced the notion that this is one of the deepest teams in the league. In a game that was more lopsided than the final score suggests, the Warriors outscored the Magic 32-19 in the third quarter to create distance, shot 50 percent from the field and outrebounded Orlando 50-35.
“They switch everything, and you’ve got to be sharp with your slipping and cutting,” Orlando head coach Frank Vogel said. “We settled for too much one-onone.”
When Curry’s right thigh was still sore after shootaround Monday morning, the Warriors didn’t need long to deliberate: He would sit against the Magic. The defending league champions are far more concerned with keeping their All-Stars healthy for the playoffs than a mid-November game against an Eastern Conference team.
On Wednesday, after Durant missed Golden State’s rout of Minnesota with a left thigh contusion, Kerr conceded that he kind of likes sitting one of his core players. It forces the rest of the team to be more focused and frees up playing time for role players.
With Curry watching from the locker room on his bobblehead night, the Warriors opened sloppily, committing four turnovers within the first five minutes. It wasn’t long before Golden State found its offensive footing. At one point late in the first quarter, Livingston followed up a highlight-worthy three-pointer from Durant by driving through the key for an emphatic dunk.
The problem? The Magic, with their balanced attack and movement-heavy system, shot 50 percent from the field to enter intermission with the game knotted 56-56.
But even an Orlando team that has been perhaps the NBA’s biggest early-season surprise isn’t immune from the Warriors’ third-quarter dominance. Over its previous six games, Golden State had outscored its opponents by an average of 12.5 points in the third period. In the third Monday, the Warriors cut off driving lanes and held the Magic to 5-for-18 shooting, including 1-for-6 from three-point range.
A 22-7 run gave Golden State a 15-point cushion midway through that quarter. By the time point guard Quinn Cook, who had been recalled from the G League hours earlier, entered the game with five minutes left, fans were filing toward the exits. They had seen enough: After a sluggish start to the season, Golden State has overwhelmed opponents at a historic rate.
The Warriors have won seven games in a row by at least 10 points for the first time in franchise history. Though Kerr is sure to open his inbox to a slew of angry emails Tuesday morning, he can take solace knowing that his bench players appreciated the extra run.
Odds are that Curry, who Kerr said would’ve played Monday if it was the postseason, will be back in the starting lineup Thursday in Boston.
“We’re not at our top level, but we’re playing at a really good level,” Kerr said. “We can get better, we know that. I like the better attention to detail. It just seems like we’re more focused.”
Shaun Livingston drives against Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic during the Warriors’ win over the Magic. Livingston had 16 points and six assists subbing for Stephen Curry.