Steph Curry

Warriors respond to ‘tough circumstances' with huge win vs. Magic

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It’s no secret that the Warriors have lost many games this season that they could and probably should have won. In Orlando on Wednesday, the Warriors went the opposite direction and pulled out a critical 101-93 victory in a game that had all the makings of another loss.

Golden State entered the game missing one of its top play-makers. Jonathan Kuminga’s cranky left knee acted up again and kept the high-flyer sidelined, robbing the Warriors of arguably their most consistent scorer of the 2023-24 season.

Then Draymond Green got ejected less than four minutes into the first quarter, causing a wave of panic to ripple across Dub Nation.

Playing one of the top teams in the East without two of their most dependable and productive players would have been enough to cripple Golden State on most nights.

Instead, the Warriors responded with one of their biggest and most critical victories of the season while maintaining their slim hold on the No. 10 spot in the Western Conference.

“It was a gutsy effort in tough circumstances,” Kerr told reporters at the Kia Center. “Obviously we need every game we can get right now. I’m just proud of the guys for stepping up. We had guys step up and that’s what it takes.”

Golden State is in the position it’s in right now because of its inability to close games out. On multiple nights the Warriors have blown fourth-quarter leads or allowed inferior teams to get the upper hand.

Just in the month of March, there have been a handful of games that the Dubs appeared to be in line for a W only to end up with an L. Losses to the Chicago Bulls and San Antonio Spurs quickly come to mind. 

They also dropped games to the Knicks, Pacers and Timberwolves – all three teams with better records than the Warriors but games that Golden State had chances to win had they received better efforts across the board.

That’s why beating Orlando is so significant. 

The Magic have the fifth-best record in the East and already had a size advantage over the smaller Warriors even before Kuminga was ruled out. When Green got tossed after getting hit with a pair of technical fouls, the uphill climb got a lot steeper.

Yet instead of folding up shop the Warriors got serious and went to work, getting significant production from starters like Andrew Wiggins and key players off the bench like Moses Moody, Gary Payton II and rookie Brandin Podziemski.

“We’re trying to win every game, like we should,” Moody said. “Every game we have left on the schedule is very winnable. So given that’s the case, (we’re) just taking the necessary precautions rather than looking backwards, looking forward.”

The Warriors made it happen against the Magic following the same type of plan that they had while beating the Heat a night earlier – with an active, hustling defense and timely play-making in clutch moments.

The victory over Orlando was even sweeter considering what happened with Green. It was his fourth ejection of the 2023-24 season and at the time looked like a serious gut-punch. Stephen Curry appeared flabbergasted by the incident and looked quite emotional in the aftermath.

But the Warriors actually came back a lot stronger after Green’s ejection. They closed the first quarter on a 21-5 run, weathered a few comeback attempts by the Magic then made plays at the end to secure the victory.

“Guys are just playing really, really hard,” Kerr said. “We’re competing really well, we’re doing a good job of taking care of the ball and defending without fouling. For the most part, we’re giving ourselves a chance by rebounding well, taking care of the ball and defending really, really hard and just trying to find enough points to win.”

The sweep of the Florida teams is nice, no doubt, but the inconsistent Warriors must back it up and finish their five-game road trip strong to make it all count.

It’s the same challenge that the Warriors have faced most of the year. Get a good win and follow it up with more good wins.

They stole one against the Magic and may have to do it again over their final 10 games, but at least there’s still a glimmer of hope.

“We’re obviously a team that can compete with anybody and lose to anybody,” Kerr said. “But it’s kind of where the league is these days, other than a handful of teams. You got a ton of teams in the league going for it with very few teams that are at the bottom. 

“We’re hoping that we can keep this thing going and close out the season with some more wins like this and put ourselves in a good spot.”

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