The Warriors close 5-0 at home as Stephen Curry’s return draws near
SAN FRANCISCO – When Stephen Curry fell to the ground at the beginning of February with an injury to his left lower leg, it became the Warriors of the Golden State‘ Aim to just stay afloat. After going through 11 games without him in November, they felt they could do it again.
But now, as they prepare for Curry’s imminent return — possibly as early as Sunday afternoon — the Warriors have done more than just stay afloat. To end a 5-0 home win with a 108-99 win over the New Orleans Pelicans Golden State built some momentum and confidence on Friday night.
“I think it was exciting to see our team turn the corner,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr.
The Warriors are down 7-3 since Curry’s fall on Feb. 4. They’re four games over .500 (34-30) for the first time this season and sit a game down the five-seeded series in the Western Conference Phoenix Suns and a game on that Dallas Mavericks.
“Boys have figured out their roles and I think we’re in great shape,” Clay Thompson called. “First of all, we have fun. … You realize how important all these games are from now on. We want to do everything we can to be at home, especially in the first round. So it’s a big challenge and it’s there so we can take it with us.”
In each of their last four games, the Warriors have overcome a double-digit deficit — the first time they have won four straight games after falling behind at least 10 in each of the past 25 seasons.
Two of those four games – against the Portland Trail Blazer And LA Clippers – were won in the third quarter, something that has almost become a Warriors trademark over the years.
After trailing the Pelicans by 17 points in the first quarter on Friday, the Warriors found rhythm in the second, beating New Orleans by 11 points. Six Warriors finished the race in double digits, led by Thompson with 27 points in 10-of-17 shooting.
But even with those big goal breakouts, the team insists it all starts with defense. It’s their game at that end of the pitch, they said, that has allowed them to find their rhythm. Kerr said it was the best and most consistent defense the Warriors played all year.
“I feel like there’s a certain harshness that comes with defending that allows you to tremble [slow starts] switch off and keep playing,” Kerr said after the Warriors’ win over the Clippers on Thursday. “It’s hard when you’re just swapping buckets. Most of the season our defense was pretty bad. I think grit goes hand in hand with defense and our defense was dramatically better.”
Between Thursday and Friday, the Warriors conceded fewer than 100 points in consecutive games after doing so just once all season. The 91 points the Clippers scored against Golden State was a season low and broke a 48-game streak in which opponents scored at least 100 points.
The biggest difference between their defense now and earlier in the season was the Warriors’ ability to execute their game plan — something that was key in limiting it Damien Lillard, Russell Westbrook And Brandon Ingram.
Now the challenge will be on the road, where the Warriors have suffered a noticeable decline all season. Golden State has the third-worst defense in the league and allows the second most points (123.5) when away from the Chase Center. At home, the Warriors have the third-best defense, allowing 111.6 points (14th-least).
“I’m very confident,” Thompson said as he took to the road. “All I know is that we trust each other more, we’ve talked and our communication has been great. We have some great defenders so I’m confident we’ll try just as hard away.”