Steph Curry

Warriors' venerable championship core knows what time it is

NBC Universal, Inc.

After winning a game they absolutely needed, the Warriors can continue to chase that coveted No. 6 seed in the Western Conference and, moreover, rationally believe they have enough to get there.

But any real chance of making that move over the remaining 16 games will require much more of what they got Saturday night in a 128-121 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers at Arena.

This much-needed win was built on the backs of their venerable championship core: Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. They knew the grand implications of the game, and they responded wonderfully.

With nudge from coach Steve Kerr, who during practice on Friday reminded the Warriors of the stakes, the vets engineered one of their cleanest games this season against an opponent linked with them in the standings.

“We know what it takes,” Green told reporters in Los Angeles. “We understand. We have a good balance on our team with guys who need to bring energy, and they’re bringing that energy. Sometimes you kind of go in these situations and, ‘Do you talk about it? Does it add more pressure?’

“I thought it was amazing for Steve to come in like, 'Listen, this is a big game. It's a playoff game, and we need to go out here with that type of focus and win.' Guys were locked in and got the job done.”

Green, listed on the injury report as “questionable” with back soreness, felt good enough to start and produce 13 assists, 12 rebounds, six points and high-velocity defense to finish plus-12 in 34 minutes.

Curry, returning after a three-game absence due to a sprained right ankle, warmed up during a scoreless first quarter before pouring in team-high 31 points in 26 minutes over the final three quarters.

“He had a slow start, but he never worries – and we never worry,” Kerr said. “You know he's going to get going. And what he does just opens up the floor for everybody else, too. It's not just his shot-making, but it's the threat of him that generates so many easy looks for us.”

Which brings us to Thompson, the third member of the core, the first one to loudly announce his presence to the Lakers – and the one whose production likely will dictate Golden State’s direction over the final month.

Bouncing back from a subpar game in a loss to the Mavericks on Wednesday night in Dallas, Thompson came off the bench to score 21 points in 14 first-half minutes, setting the Warriors on the course toward victory. He totaled 26 points, on 9-of-15 shooting from the field, including 5 of 10 beyond the arc.

“I just take what the defense gives me,” Thompson said. “And if they're going to let me get open off pin-downs or shoot some transition threes, then I'm going to shoot it. I don't try and overthink things. Just keep it simple, and that's usually when my game tends to flourish.”

Thompson played at a comfortable pace, took smart shots, added four rebounds and three assists, all while making it look effortless.

Golden State’s recent history reveals Thompson is the scorer who most dictates the outcome of a game. We’ve seen Curry come up big and it’s not enough. When Thompson comes up big, it usually results in a W. Which positions him as the team’s X-factor.

When Curry scores 25 or more points, the Warriors win 70.4 percent of the time (336-140). But when Thompson scores at least 25 points, they prevail 80.2 percent of the time (163-40). (Stats courtesy of the good folks at

For the Warriors to have a reasonable chance to manufacture the kind of finish that pushes them above the NBA play-in box and into the guaranteed playoff berth that the top six finishers earn, they’ll need Thompson in his new Sixth Man role lighting up opposing defenses.

“I can really feel his power coming off the bench, and we're going to him right away,” Kerr said. “We're calling plays for him. It is a different vibe with him coming off the bench. He's out there with Steph, but then Steph goes to the bench. To always have one of them on the floor for the most part, it's really important for us.”

Though Jonathan Kuminga’s 23 points were necessary, this was a night when the team’s accomplished vets did what they should do. They knew a win would put them ahead of the Lakers and one step closer to their goal of avoiding the play-in tournament.

They knew this even without Kerr’s reminder.

“He didn’t have to tell me anything,” Curry said. “I just missed the last three [games], so I was excited just to be back.

"But you obviously understand the ramifications of every game we play down the stretch . . . Every game, especially against teams that are, you know, right in the standings, you know, where it's all jumbled up, matters.”

This game needed playoff intensity. The championship core brought it. For their next trick, they’ll try to sustain it for the next 16 games.

Download and follow the Dubs Talk Podcast

Contact Us