After barely pulling a victory against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples, the Golden State Warriors looked to set a tone for the rest of the road trip against the Orlando Magic. They did just that, behind a 75 point outing from the Big 3, and contributions down the depth chart.
The 41 points scored by the Warriors in the first quarter was a high watermark for the season, but they only lead by seven at the end of the opening frame as the Magic hit five threes en route to 34 points. Despite nagging injury concerns for both Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry, the two MVPs were unguardable in the first quarter. Durant abused a defensive mismatch in Evan Fournier and Curry seemed particularly driven after exchanging a few words with Elfrid Payton.
Draymond Green also drew the task of stopping Aaron Gordon, who had the best game of his young career against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Green picked Gordon’s pocket, forced a turnover, and blocked him, as well as energetically closing out against the improving three-point shooter. The most notable play of the first quarter was not particularly spectacular, if not for the special significance to the unanimous MVP; off a dish from Durant, Curry swished a three-pointer that moved him up to 8th all time for three-point makes.
1st Quarter Final Score 41-34
With Andre Iguodala out, Kerr opted to freestyle his rotations, both timing- and personnel-wise. Omri Casspi took the swingman’s spot in the lineup to open the second frame. The game slowed down a bit in the second, as both teams struggled to find their shooting from the first quarter. Jordan Bell, who had received early minutes (relatively) in the first, played with trademark energy and created posessions for the Warriors.
Durant continues to play near-perfect basketball on both ends. Defensively, Durant’s blocks have become a new calling card, but a particular play that stuck out from the quarter was when he chased down Fournier in transition, forced the Frenchman to pickup his dribble and pressured him into a turnover. Patrick McCaw absorbed Iguodala’s late-quarter minutes and was able to play meaningful possessions with the rest of the “Hamptons 5” lineup. He knocked down some crucial corner threes, created extra offensive possessions, and played the passing lanes.
2nd Quarter Score: 78-63
The third quarter started a bit sloppy, with three turnovers in less than three minutes, and defensive lapses allowed the Magic to crawl back within eight after being down as much as 15. Klay Thompson and ZaZa Pachulia displayed a growing mental connection that has resulted in easy buckets for both players in give-and-go sets. Engaged defense lead to offense as the Warriors were able to balloon the lead to 19, but the Magic remained persistent and their effort belied the deficit they faced. They would outscore the Warriors 28-24 in the third.
3rd Quarter Score: 102-91
With 12 minutes left to secure an impressive road victory, the Warriors displayed they were determined not to blow another big lead. Thompson let his presence be known when both the Warriors’ MVPs sat to start the quarter, and continued to find his shot and convert cuts to the basket. A Durant lob to a curling Jordan Bell marked the 40th assist of the night, a feat accomplished only 13 times in Warriors history. More remarkably, KD was ejected with one technical after exchanging some words with the referee. Truly all aspects of his game have become elevated since joining the Warriors.
Bell should get special recognition; he took JaVale McGee’s usual minutes and produced with poise. Few players can match McGee’s vertical explosiveness, but Bell shows an ability to not only finish lobs, but also has keen timing on his blocks. He has earned a more consistent spot in the Warriors rotation.
I'LL SAY IT AGAIN: JORDAN BELL SHOULD NEVER BE INACTIVE AGAIN pic.twitter.com/i3aOmmwqwG— Drew Shiller (@DrewShiller) December 2, 2017
Stephen Curry deserves special recognition for playing through a finger injury on his shooting hand, though “playing through” doesn’t do justice to his play. He would finish the night with 23 points, six rebounds, and nine assists. He would be spilled several times during the game, but did not allow it to wear on his play.