Enough mus­cle to rest starters

San Francisco Chronicle (Sunday) - - SPORTING GREEN - By Con­nor Le­tourneau

As the War­riors built a dy­nasty, their All-Stars got ac­cus­tomed to watch­ing fourth quar­ters from the bench. Those late-game respites were vi­tal for a team in­tent on play­ing deep into June an­nu­ally.

But as Golden State strug­gled to re­gain its usual dom­i­nance this sea­son, Stephen Curry, Kevin Du­rant, Klay Thomp­son and Dray­mond Green were forced to log more min­utes than head coach Steve Kerr prefers. In Fri­day night’s 146-109 rout of the Bulls at Or­a­cle Arena, the War­riors freed up their core to rest down the stretch for the sec­ond straight game, which should help in com­ing weeks.

“I loved the en­ergy tonight from the bench,” Kerr said. “Guys were hav­ing fun. It’s felt good. I think this week's been good. A cou­ple of feel-good games, and now we've got some tough ones com­ing up, so we've got to be ready.”

Golden State leaves Satur­day morn­ing for Dal­las, where it will be­gin a seven-city, eight-game, 15-day gant­let. The most-in-

ten­sive travel stretch of the sea­son will fea­ture DeMar­cus Cousins’ re­turn, slated for next Fri­day against the Clip­pers at Sta­ples Cen­ter, from a torn left Achilles ten­don.

That the War­riors are fi­nally be­gin­ning to bully op­po­nents bodes well for Cousins’ tran­si­tion. In Tues­day’s 27-point win over the Knicks, Curry, Du­rant, Thomp­son and Green played por­tions of the fourth quar­ter be­fore watch­ing bench play­ers fin­ish things. Those four checked out for good at var­i­ous points of the third Fri­day.

“When we’re locked in, we’re pretty good,” Du­rant said. “Ob­vi­ously, we’d like to see this carry over to the next week of bas­ket­ball, but we'll see what hap­pens.”

Thomp­son (30 points, seven three-point­ers), Curry (28 points, five three-point­ers), Du­rant (22 points, five as­sists) and Green (seven re­bounds, six as­sists) were hy­per-ef­fi­cient, need­ing be­tween 21 and 28 min­utes to erad­i­cate the game of doubt. By the time Curry checked out with 2:30 left in the third, Golden State was up 11371.

With Thomp­son leading the way, the War­riors built a 43-17 lead by the end of the first quar­ter. It was their sec­ond-largest point mar­gin after the first pe­riod in the shot-clock era (since 1954-55). On Nov. 2, 1991, against the Kings, Golden State led by 30 points after the first quar­ter.

After dig­ging such a mas­sive hole early, the Bulls didn’t se­ri­ously threaten. The War­riors’ 37-point mar­gin of vic­tory Fri­day was eas­ily their big­gest of the sea­son, top­ping 28-point wins over the Knicks (Oct. 26) and Trail Blaz­ers (Nov. 23).

It was more ev­i­dence that, after un­der­whelm­ing much of the first half of the sea­son, Golden State is set­tling into a rhythm and play­ing the part of bully. The War­riors shot 57.6 per­cent from the field, 46.2 per­cent (18-for-39) from three-point range and 84.6 per­cent (22for-26) from the foul line.

Thomp­son set the tone early by need­ing less than 90 sec­onds to score nine points on three three-point­ers with zero drib­bles. Early in the third quar­ter, Curry hit his third three-pointer of the night to pass Ja­son Terry on the NBA’s all-time threes list. Only Reg­gie Miller and Ray Allen — two of Curry’s child­hood he­roes — sit above him.

On hav­ing been in­flu­enced by Miller and Allen, Curry said: “It’s just a special ac­com­plish­ment, in terms of two guys I know who are trend-set­ters, stretch­ing the imag­i­na­tion of the three-point game, do­ing that for many, many years. People that I looked up to as a young kid play­ing the game.”

With the main play­ers watch­ing from the bench, sel­do­mused re­serves got ex­tended play­ing time. Jordan Bell, who has had a tough time carv­ing out a reg­u­lar ro­ta­tion spot de­spite plenty of op­por­tu­ni­ties, had 13 points in 15 min­utes. Two-way­con­tract player Mar­cus Der­rick­son chipped in 10 points in 12 min­utes.

The ques­tion now is whether Golden State can pum­mel teams not bound for the lot­tery. The Knicks and Bulls were a good tuneup for a key road stretch, but much tougher tests loom.

San­ti­ago Me­jia / The Chron­i­cle

The War­riors’ Stephen Curry flexes his en­thu­si­asm. Curry, who had 28 points, passed Ja­son Terry on the all-time threes list. Only Reg­gie Miller and Ray Allen have more.

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