From a macro perspective, the biggest news out of Monday’s win over the Los Angeles Lakers was point guard Stephen Curry’s ankle.
He sprained it for the third time this season on Saturday and was questionable heading into the game. But in the end, he did play. He finished with 25 points, 10 assists and 7 rebounds to lead the Warriors to their fourth win in five games.
Unlike this previous two times, Curry didn’t have to miss any action. He said that shows the progress of his much maligned right ankle.
CURRY: “I’ve been through a lot obviously with the ankle. But this year has been a new feeling. If I have an episode, I’ve been able to bounce back quickly. So after the (Saturday) game, I didn’t have any worries that it would last too long. I know how it feels at the moment it happens and I’ve healed quickly. It’s a good feeling to be able to come back in 48 hours and be able to play.”
Curry said it wasn’t looking to good at shootaround on Monday. He said it was stiff and he thought it might be all bad. He said he considered giving it more rest. But after getting treatment all afternoon, it was ok enough to test out pregame.
Under the watchful eyes of just about everyone who draws a paycheck from the Warriors, Curry went through his pregame warm-ups without issue. He acknowledged being sore, but said he didn’t have to compensate and didn’t have to “baby” his ankle while on the court.
The last hurdle was convincing Jackson. That’s a hurdle Curry usually loses. This time, he won.
JACKSON: “Believe it or not, he’s won more than once. I would probably say we’re about .500. He’s a guy that’s a pro and he’s a gamer. He wanted this.”
More on Monday’s win …
MVP: Stephen Curry
He went from questionable with his third right ankle sprain to coming three rebounds shy of a triple double. His 25 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds (with 2 turnovers) was impressive enough. But the fact that he played 43 minutes, gutting it out when many thought he should have rested. His shot wasn’t clicking too well—9 of 24 shooting — but he made the key play down the stretch and pioneered an aggressive Warriors offense the first three quarters.
JACKSON: “He’s proven. It’s not a concern to me and it’s not ac oncern to this franchise. Obviously, they stepped up and signed him long term. It’s not a concern for Steph. We know just how special a player and person that he is and we are fortunate to have him. People have freak injuries. Everything that has happened —even this last time when he sprained his ankle and bruised his hip — happens to the best of them.”
MDP: Harrison Barnes
He wasn’t terrible. In fact, in his 30 minutes, he had the highest +/- on the team. But as it usually is with the Barnes, he does a few things well to make you want more from him. He played 29 minutes, took eight shots and grabbed five rebounds, one offensive. He clearly needs to stop waiting on people to feed him. But in reality, he’s only the MDP because the Warriors basically played six guys and he had the least impact of the six.
KEY MOMENT I: Up 12 to start the second quarter, the Warriors opened with a 9-2 run to push the lead to 19. Jack, who had 29 points and 11 assists in the last game against the Lakers, went to work again. He converted a driving layup and, after a missed Jamison 3-pointer, dropped in a floater.
Barnes converted a runner then, with 9:52 left, drew a foul on a pull-up in the lane for a three-point play. Golden State led 37-18.
The lead was 19 with 37.2 seconds left in the first half after a pull-up jumper by Curry. In the final seconds of the second quarter, Curry missed a 39-footer. But Lee dunked back the miss with 1.9 seconds left.
Metta World Peace, trying to throw it the length of the court, sailed the inbounds pass out of bounds 94 feet away. That gave the Warriors the ball from where he inbounded, right under Golden State’s basket.
On the inbounds, Andrew Bogut had Curry trying to front him. So the Warriors abandoned the inbounds play and Curry lobbed the pass near the rim. Bogut tipped it in with 1.4 seconds left.
JACKSON: “We were about to run a different play. Fortunately, when I saw it, I just told Bogut to go in front of the rim. Great pass by Steph. Great finish by Bogut. … There is going to come a point where I won’t have to say a word, where they’ll read that, recognize it and capitalize. We’ve got a young basketball team and it’s an awfully bright future.”
TELLING STAT: Both teams finished with 40 points in the paint. That’s quite a feat for the Warriors, who are usually dominated inside by the Lakers. The last meeting, Los Angeles outscored the Warriors 56-38 in the paint. And the previous meeting, the blowout at Staples, Golden State was outscored by 8 in the paint.
This time, the Warriors protected the rim. This time, they had Bogut. The Lakers shot 39.6 percent, was only able to turn 15 offensive rebounds into 17 points. Los Angeles shot 39.6 percent — and that was with a 50-percent third quarter performance.
Los Angeles ranks 10th in the NBA at 45.7 percent shooting.
YEAH, WHAT HE SAID: “I wanted my guys to understand that we are the better basketball team. We’ve played 72 games and the survey says hat we are the better basketball team. That can’t be debated. … We were not going to come into this game in our heels. We respect them and they have guys that will be in the Hall of Fame. I believe four of them. That being said, this is a different day and it’s a different basketball team. I thought it was important to be aggressive and let the chips fall where they may.” — Mark Jackson
COACHES CORNER: Mark Jackson did a masterful job selling to his players the game wasn’t a big deal while making them play like it was a big deal. They all had the “finish strong” company line down instead of the usual “beat LA” mantra. But then they went out and played the first three quarters like they had a bone to pick with the Lakers.
But a usual Warriors quandary reared its head and Jackson seems to still have no answer for it. The Warriors offense looks great when they are knocking down shots. But when the jumpers stop falling, they look vulnerable and limited. Golden State shot 26.3 percent in the fourth quarter (5 of 19) and managed just 15 points.
Lee converted a three-point play at the 8:27 mark, putting Golden State up 101-81. The Warriors’ next field goal came on a Curry 19-footer at the 4:46 mark. They managed two points, a pair of free throws by Lee, over their next seven possessions, and they desperately needed a basket. Just an untimely drought, right? Every team has it. And after Curry broke it, the Warriors still led 16.
However, the Warriors’ next five possessions they came up empty handed as well: a missed Klay 3, a Curry traveling violation, a missed Curry 20 footer, a step-back 15-footer from Jack, a turnaround hook from 9-feet by Lee. The Lead dwindled from 16 to 7 during this second drought.
Jackson went with pick-and-roll with Curry and Bogut (and a few times with Curry and Lee). Curry, for starters went out too wide and didn’t explode off the screen (ankle?) and took himself into trap areas. Secondly, the screeners, automatically like it’s designed, tend to pop for the midrange jumper instead of to the basket.
Certainly, fourth quarter offense will be a factor in the playoffs. As it is now, the Warriors just have to hope they hit some 3s. Or Lee hits that lefty turnaround off the glass. Or Jack hits that pull-up. Because that’s about the extent of their options, it seems.
Another trend developing: Jackson’s rotation shortens in the bigger games. He went basically six deep, with Festus (10:16) and Landry (14:33) getting a little bit of action. Save for a few seconds from Bazemore and Green, everyone else got a DNP.
Certainly, this has an effect on the Warriors fourth quarter offense. Tired legs make for bricked jumpers. And you know Curry was tired, playing on a bad ankle. Can you ask Klay to hit 3s in the fourth WHILE guarding Kobe all game? Seems to me it would’ve helped in the long run to get Bazemore and Green some minutes on him. But this was a sign that Jackson really wanted this game.
But many a Warrior fans saw a great development in Jackson’s rotation. Two starters remained on the floor instead of the usual mass substitution. Curry, Thompson and Lee finished the first quarter, when usually at least four subs are in. Curry, Thompson and Bogut finished the third.
Did Jackson ride the starters too hard? Probably so. But certainly, that is a more productive plan than putting in the bench unit in at the same time, given their offensive problems. Expect to see that in the playoffs.
SERIOUSLY?!: Dwight Howard had a problem with the elbow he took from David Lee, prompting him to need three stitches in his lower lip.
HOWARD told Yahoo! Sports: “He got away with a shot. I will remember this game. I will remember that shot. He said he wasn’t trying to do it. You can look at the play and see it for yourself. I will take care of it later.”
Problem: the elbow happened in the first half. Which means Howard had two more quarter to “take care of it” and did not. That was such a studio gangsta move, renowned nice guy David Lee, who don’t want no trouble, called him out. On the low.
Lee: “I expressed to him at halftime that it was unintentional. But I’m worried about the Sacramento Kings right now. Moving forward, we’ll deal with that when we get to it. We played the whole second half and it didn’t get chippy in the second half and then postgame he seemed to change his tune. … We’ve got a lot bigger things to worry about.”
KEY MOMENT II: A step-back jumper by Curry ended the drought, putting Golden State up 105-89 just inside of five minutes left. But the Warriors went three minutes without scoring.
A pair of free throws by Dwight Howard, yes he hit both, and a Jody Meeks layup had the Warriors’ lead down to 12 in 39 seconds later. A 3-pointer by Steve Blake with 2:51 left cut the Warriors’ lead to nine, sending the Lakers fans at Oracle into a frenzy and putting Golden State on edge.
Moments later, Bryant, going one-on-one with Klay, drilled a fade-away to cut the Warriors lead to 105-98
Golden State went back to the pick-and-roll with Curry and Bogut. This time, Bogut rolled down the middle of the lane and Curry slipped him a pass in stride, leading to a finger roll that put Golden State ahead 107-98.
Meeks missed two open looks at 3s to end the threat.
BEFORE YOU GO: Curry knocked down three 3-pointers, giving him 227 for the season. He is now 42 shy of Ray Allen’s NBA record for 3-pointers made in a season with 10 games to play.