© Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
The Warriors didn’t play their best basketball tonight. That might sound odd in a 128-111 win, but the defending champions were lazy at times after building a big lead and turned the ball over in uncharacteristic ways. After the Atlanta Hawks turned the ball over nine times in the first quarter compared to the Warriors’ zero turnovers, the game ended with an even turnover differential of 19 by each team.
Still, with Stephen Curry back to his old self and Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant putting on mercenary shooting performances, the Warriors blew out the very young Hawks very easily. It snapped an almost unbelievable six-game road losing streak for the Warriors.
Here are three thoughts from tonight’s game:
Steph is back in the groove
Curry returned to the court on Saturday against the Detroit Pistons, but he didn’t look like his usual self, at least not until the second half. Curry’s father, Dell, joined Warriors’ commentators Bob Fitzgerald and Jim Barnett, in the second half of tonight’s game and mentioned that it was evident Steph looked a bit tired in Saturday’s game and toward the end of tonight’s third quarter.
Still, Curry shot out the gate as if to remind people he’s still the greatest shooter in NBA history. He made his first six shots and tallied 18 points in the first quarter. While he eventually missed some shots, that start set the base for a 30-point game with 10-of-17 shooting from the field and 6-of-10 shooting from deep.
Players ball in ATL
The Warriors with Curry are arguably the best team in basketball. The Hawks are tanking. As the legendary Atlanta duo OutKast rapped in their first hit single “Player’s Ball,” I’d ask, “So tell me, what did you expect?”
This is the type of result the Warriors have been yearning for since Curry picked up his adductor strain against the Milwaukee Bucks on November 8. There were some sloppy moments tonight, but the Warriors are getting back to that groove they had early in the season.
In the first quarter, the Warriors forced nine turnovers from the Hawks without committing a single turnover. Despite hitting just six 3-pointers (on 26 attempts) against the Pistons on Saturday, they hit that mark in tonight’s first quarter alone.
Their offensive trident of Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson clicked about as seamlessly as it has in weeks. All three tallied 20-plus points tonight on better than 50 percent shooting for a combined 85 points.
Curry had 30, Thompson had 27 (10-of-19) with 9 rebounds for his career-high ninth-straight 20-plus point game, and Durant had 28 on a comically-efficient 10-of-13 shooting from the field along with 8 assists and 5 rebounds. With Kevon Looney’s support, that offensive triad was back to its best tonight.
Looney taking hold of his starting spot
The front court depth for the Warriors got very thin very quick when an MRI revealed that Damian Jones tore his left pectoral in Saturday’s loss to the Detroit Pistons. With DeMarcus Cousins’s return still indefinite, but likely multiple weeks out, as is the case for Green – who will not play for the Warriors on this road trip – there are limited options at the five and four spots.
Looney got the start tonight, and behind him is Jordan Bell and Jonas Jerebko. That’s about all the Warriors have available in terms of natural bigs. Looney took it upon himself to spark that shorthanded front court with a career-high 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting along with 5 assists, 4 rebounds and a couple of blocks and steals.
He also added a triplet of rebounds and assists, as well as two steals and a block. His energy has been evident throughout the season, and it seems to have cemented him as the de facto starter until Cousins returns (and proves he’s the type of player he was before his Achilles tear). Looney played a season-high 29 minutes tonight with Jonas Jerebko helping ease the front court pressure with 12 points (4-of-4, 2-of-2 from three) and 5 rebounds.