Minus Curry, Warriors still too much for Magic
OAKLAND, Calif. — Steve Kerr seemed like the luckiest basketball coach on earth after his Golden State Warriors’ 110-100 win over the Orlando Magic Monday night at Oracle Arena.
Without the services of injured star Stephen Curry, Kerr installed Shaun Livingston at the point guard spot. The veteran responded with 16 points and six assists and made just one turnover in the Warriors’ seventh consecutive win by double digits.
Kerr said it is “amazing” how Livingston has remade himself since he dislocated his left kneecap in 2007.
“Since he’s been here he’s been such a huge part of our team on and off the floor,” Kerr said. “He’s one of the most mature people I’ve been around in the league. Great teammate, hard worker, incredible basketball IQ. For us to be able to play him when Steph is out, is an incredible luxury.”
Overall, the Warriors found a different way, grinding out a victory without those Curry flurries. The two-time NBA MVP was out as a precautionary measure with a right thigh contusion.
Kevin Durant led the Warriors with 21 points, eight assists and seven rebounds. Draymond Green had 20 points, making 3 of 5 3-point attempts.
Nikola Vucevic led the Magic with 20 points.
Durant took it up a notch in the first half, breaking open a tie game with a self-imposed eight-point run, which got rolling with his block of Magic star Aaron Gordon inside.
“It’s just momentum,” Durant said. “You want to have those big momentum plays that get the crowd into it, especially you’re at home. ... I felt the energy from my teammates, from the crowd and the coaching staff. That was a good sequence right there.”
The Warriors (11-3) and Magic (8-6) were tied 56-56 at halftime, but Golden State opened a 78-63 margin and kept hammering away toward a 32-point quarter, virtually equaling their NBA-leading average of 32.6 points in the third quarter.
“They’re a really good third-quarter team,” said Gordon, a San Jose, Calif., native who had a quiet night with 10 points and 10 boards. “We were down a little bit, and there was a lack of energy on my part. It’s unacceptable. We really felt like we could have won that game had we done a few things differently.”
It was point guard by committee for Golden State, which had 35 assists. Kerr could sense the difference in the team’s pacing without Curry on the floor.
“Steph causes so much chaos every time with those high drags, transition plays and then his energy off the ball and movement without the ball,” Kerr said.
Livingston said he tried to be “aggressive” with such big shoes to fill. He played through the post to Green, Durant and David West, who was a game-changer inside.
“Obviously it’s a different type of a game,” Livingston said. “Our team identity changes (without Curry), so it’s trying to move the ball, play inside-out a bit more, get stops. It’s obviously going to be more of a grind-it-out type game.”
Livingston agreed and said he started feeling more comfortable as the game progressed. He also stepped in admirably for Curry two seasons ago in the playoffs, helping the Warriors to a 5-1 record.
The Warriors entered the night with an NBA-record-tying six consecutive wins of 17-or-more points. They came close to setting the record outright, opening a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter before the Magic trimmed the margin late in the game.
NOTES: Warriors G Stephen Curry (right thick contusion) sat out the game. G Shaun Livingston started in Curry’s place. Curry did not participate in Monday’s shoot-around in order to receive treatment on the injury, which he suffered in Saturday’s win over Philadelphia. ... The Warriors recalled G Quinn Cook from their Santa Cruz G-League to help fill the void. Curry has been averaging 25.7 points on 46.7 shooting percentage in 32.3 minutes per game. ... Orlando F Jonathan Isaac, who suffered a sprained right ankle Saturday in Denver, was in a protective walking boot and sat out the game. Orlando coach Frank Vogel described Isaac as “one of our best position-less defenders.” ... Orlando G Elfrid Payton (right ankle sprain) sat out. ... Warriors F Kevin Durant spoke about his admiration for former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who shares a GQ magazine cover series with Durant. “Kaepernick is just a guy standing up for what he believes in,” Durant said of the controversial QB. “Standing for people that don’t really have a voice. It was a tremendous honor to be on the cover with him, somebody that his words have started a conversation that’s needed in this country.”