Curry-less Golden State ex­tends streak to 7

WAR­RIORS 110, MAGIC 100 Mon­day

San Francisco Chronicle - - SPORTS - By Con­nor Le­tourneau Con­nor Le­tourneau is a San Fran­cisco Chron­i­cle staff writer. Email: cle­tourneau@ sfchron­i­cle.com Twit­ter: @Con_Chron

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.”

Scott Straz­zante / The Chron­i­cle

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.

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