Without Stephen Curry in the lineup, Monday night’s game against the Orlando Magic looked to be a trap, the spot where a team could snap the Golden State Warriors’ six-game winning streak.
But the Warriors were able to take care of business and earn a 110-100 victory that was certainly not that close. Against a Magic team that has surprised many with their strong play to start the season, the Warriors recorded a workmanlike victory, one that was not especially pretty but nevertheless convincing.
Warriors play a slightly ragged game without Curry
Even though the outcome of the game was ultimately positive, the Warriors still did look a little bit rough without their former two-time MVP. One way Curry’s absence showed up was in the Warriors 3-point shooting, or lack thereof.
Oracle crowd, with no 3s being taken, getting hyped up while midrangers are in the air— Nate Duncan (@NateDuncanNBA) November 14, 2017
The Warriors, a team that averages nearly 33 3-point attempts per game, only took 23 against the Magic while only making 8 (while usually making almost 14 per game). That drop-off corresponds closely with Curry’s per-game numbers. Both Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson also attempted below their season averages from 3-point range in this game, reflecting how an opponent can focus on stopping those 3-pointers when they don’t also have to contend with Curry’s offensive gravity.
The Warriors turnover issues were still present, particularly in the first.
Four turnovers in five minutes for the Warriors, who continue to throw some of the strangest passes this season.— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) November 14, 2017
The Warriors finished the game with 16 turnovers, the bulk of those coming in the first half as the team attempted to find an offensive rhythm without Curry in the lineup. Throughout the game, even as they began to play better, the Warriors seemed to over-pass a bit, moving the ball even more than they probably needed to. One wonders if that wasn’t a side-effect of not having Curry in the lineup and a slight hesitancy creeping in without him on the court.
For the Magic, the best player on the court was Nikola Vucevic, who led the team in scoring with 20 points. 13 of Vucevic’s 20 points came in the first half, as he helped the Magic keep pace with the Warriors, never letting them pull away and answering every Warriors run with a run of their own. That he was not able to keep up that scoring pace in the second half was one factor in the Warriors taking control of the game with a dominant third quarter.
But beyond Vucevic and Evan Fournier (who scored 16 points), the Magic didn’t get much offense. In particular, Aaron Gordon struggled mightily dealing with the Warriors’ defense, led by Durant and Draymond Green. Gordon posted his lowest point total of the season, scoring only 10 points while shooting 30.8% from the field.
Gordon, who had been playing well to start the season (with a pretty dramatic spike in his 3-point shooting percentage over the first 11 games of the season), struggled playing in front of friends and family (as Gordon hails from San Jose and went to high school at Archbishop Mitty).
A big game for S Dot
Filling in for Curry in the starting lineup, Shaun Livingston had his best game of the season thus far against the Magic. Matched up on Elfrid Payton, who was playing in only his fifth game of the regular season, Livingston scored a season-high 16 points in 20 minutes of game action. Two of those points came here in the second quarter, when the game was still very much in play.
Taking advantage of the defensive lapse, Livingston is able to corral the Durant pass and go in for the slam dunk. Livingston also had a season-high 6 assists against the Magic.
Livingston is able to get the quick pass to Green as he moves away from his defender and to the basket for the layup. That bucket pushed the Warriors lead to 10 points as they finally put some distance between themselves and the Magic with an impressive 32-19 third quarter to hold a 13-point lead as the game moved into the fourth. Though he was obviously in the starting lineup tonight and not coming off of the bench, it was good to see Livingston have a strong performance while filling in for Curry. It’s a good reminder that though this team has some amazing star power, its bench is also pretty strong too.
More help off of the bench
Livingston wasn’t the only bench player (well, usual bench player as Livingston was bumped up to being a starter with Curry’s absence) who made solid contributions on Monday night. Andre Iguodala scored five points and handed out four assists, with three of those points coming here in the third quarter as the Warriors seized control of the game.
Kevon Looney continued his run of good play against the Magic, scoring eight points in fifteen minutes of playing time. Here he gets two of those points on a layup after a smart pass by Green to get him the ball.
While David West only scored four points, he was another solid contributor who helped to make up for Curry’s absence. A +9 off of the bench (the best of any substitute player), West snared 11 rebounds while also dishing out 5 assists.
Playing a nice two-man game with Thompson, West was able to pass out of traffic when it was clear he wouldn’t be able to put up an uncontested shot, finding Thompson for the mid-range jumper to add to the Warriors lead.
Durant and Draymond shine, no surprise there.
Even though they got nice contributions from Livingston, Iguodala, and Looney, for the Warriors to win without Curry in the lineup they needed substantial contributions from their all-stars. While Thompson finished with 15 points and 5 assists, the biggest contributors for the Warriors were Durant and Green.
Durant started the game very slow, scoring on 4 points while going 2 for 6 from the field in the first quarter, but turned things around in the second on this sequence.
Kevin Durant puts Aaron Gordon on skates after blocking him on the other end. Quite a sequence. pic.twitter.com/qUhmUXKed9— Logan Murdock (@loganmmurdock) November 14, 2017
After getting the block of Gordon’s shot attempt, Durant took the ball and, after crossing up Gordon, hit the jumper to give the Warriors a four-point lead. While Durant started the game slow, that sequence might have served as his wake-up call.
It appears that Aaron Gordon is lighting a fire under Kevin Durant. It started in first quarter and heats up after KD stones AG at the rim and lights him on the other end while exchanging s---t-talk— Monte Poole (@MontePooleNBCS) November 14, 2017
Durant ended the game with 21 points, the bulk of those coming after that rough first quarter, including a particularly thunderous two points here midway through the fourth.
Kevin Durant you are cleared for takeoff pic.twitter.com/O6MaMnjN4j— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) November 14, 2017
Durant also 7 rebounds and 8 assists, making one of those here on a beautiful bounce pass to Green cutting towards the basket in the fourth quarter.
Green finished the game with 20 points along with 5 assists and 4 rebounds, all while playing strong defense and helping to slow down Gordon. Green also shot well from beyond the arc, going 3 for 5 from 3-point range in the game as his long-distance shooting continues to regress back toward the mean after his cold-shooting start.
This victory over the Magic pushed the current Warriors win streak to seven games, with all those wins being of the blowout variety (though the Magic closed the deficit to 10 points by the final buzzer, that was largely done in garbage time and the Warriors held a 20-point lead midway through the fourth). But after dealing with some up-and-coming East teams in the Magic and 76ers, the Warriors have to get ready to face the East’s best team in Kyrie Irving and the Boston Celtics in Boston on Thursday night.
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