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Analysis: Curry returns, Warriors rebound with solid home win against the Detroit Pistons

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Stephen Curry returns to action and scores 26 points, allowing the Warriors to earn their 50th win of the season and reclaim first place in the Western Conference.

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Golden State Warriors Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

The Warriors played their second game in as many nights on Sunday, welcoming the Detroit Pistons to Oakland for their final regular-season visit to Oracle Arena. The Warriors wanted to make everyone forget their dreadful blowout loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday by playing a game up to their (and Dub Nation’s) standards, which is exactly what they did. Though the Pistons made things close in the final quarter, the Warriors were in control for most of this one as they secured the 121-114 victory.

Curry’s hot start gives the Warriors a first-quarter lead

The first quarter of Sunday night’s game went much better than the opening quarter of Saturday night’s matchup. For one thing, the Warriors actually made some shots. The Warriors shot 61.1% from the field in the first quarter, including going 4/6 from three-point range. In the first against the Mavericks, the Warriors shot 29.6% and went 2/11 from long distance. Those four makes from beyond the arc in the first quarter of Sunday night’s game were as many makes as they had in the entire game against the Mavericks.

A big part of that first-quarter surge was one of the players who missed the game against the Mavericks—Stephen Curry. Curry did not take long to find a rhythm in the game, as he scored 11 of his game-high 26 points in the first quarter while going 3/5 from long distance.

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Golden State Warriors
Curry was the key offensively for the Warriors, scoring 26 points in Sunday night’s win over the Pistons.
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

But even after that stellar first quarter from Curry, the Warriors led by just one point. The play of the Pistons’ big man Andre Drummond prevented the Warriors from gaining the early separation. Drummond was able to get rolling early as the Warriors missed DeMarcus Cousins’ presence in those opening moments. Drummond scored 8 of his 12 points in that opening frame while grabbing 6 of his 11 rebounds as well.

Another reason was the Pistons’ ability to get to the free-throw line. The Pistons attempted 8 free throws in the first quarter while the Warriors attempted just 4. The Pistons attempted 25 free throws in Sunday night’s loss, converting 24 of them and that allowed them to remain competitive even while the Warriors played well enough to blow them out.

But a slim advantage is better than none and that’s what the Warriors held after one quarter, in part because of this stellar bucket by Shaun Livingston.

Livingston went 4/4 from the field in Sunday night’s game and contributed 8 points coming off the bench.

Point KD leads the way in the second quarter

The Warriors increased their lead in the second quarter, going into halftime with a 14-point advantage. Kevin Durant was instrumental in the Warriors having that double-digit lead after two quarters but, surprisingly, it wasn’t his scoring that made the biggest difference. Durant’s court vision and passing were simply sublime against the Pistons. Durant had 4 of his 11 assists in the second quarter, including this beauty to set up a Draymond Green dunk.

Durant also had this great dime that led to a Klay Thompson three-pointer.

Durant scored just 14 points against the Pistons and attempted just 6 field goals. But what he did as a distributor and play-caller, being “Point KD” as The Athletic’s Marcus Thompson II has called him, was just as important as any points he could have scored and was a big part of why the Warriors won. Durant’s 11 assists tied a season-high for him and it was the fourth time this season he had 11+ assists in a game (he only did that twice last season).

Green was much more of an offensive threat against the Pistons, perhaps turning up his game because he was facing off against the team closest to his hometown of Flint, Michigan. In addition to that running dunk set up by Durant’s pass, Green capped the Warriors’ first half with this buzzer-beating three-pointer.

Green scored 14 points in the win over the Pistons, the most he’s scored in one game since a February 25th road win over the Charlotte Hornets.

Bigs play big in the third

The Warriors increased their lead in the third quarter, leading by 20 points at the end of the quarter. In addition to Curry’s 10 third-quarter points, the Warriors were able to expand their advantage because of Andrew Bogut and Kevon Looney.

Though Bogut didn't get off to a great start against Drummond and the Pistons’ front line, his game picked up in the second half. Bogut scored 4 of his 8 points in the third frame, including this coast-to-coast layup that got the fans at Oracle Arena cheering.

Looney also had a nice third, scoring 4 of his 11 points in the quarter, including this put-back after grabbing his only offensive rebound of the game.

Every time it seemed like the Warriors were about to pull away with this game, the Pistons fought back to keep the game a true contest. One of those moments came when Durant fouled Luke Kennard while shooting a three-pointer, which he made for the four-point play, cutting the Warriors’ lead to just 12 points. That was one of the few poor moments for Durant in Sunday night’s game.

Though the Pistons were able to get things close, the Warriors were able to end the quarter on a 14-4 run that gave them that 20-point advantage heading into the final frame.

Kennard and Maker make it interesting, but the Warriors close it out

The Pistons tried their best in the fourth quarter to make things really interesting, even turning that 20-point Warriors lead into a 9-point one with under 5 minutes to play in the game.

Kennard played a big role in the Pistons closing the gap, building off of his third quarter and scoring of 10 his 20 points in the final frame. Thon Maker also got into the act, scoring 10 points in the fourth quarter as well. Both players were especially locked in from long distance in the fourth, as Kennard went 2/2 from three-point range while Maker went 2/3.

You’ll notice I’m not mentioning Blake Griffin here when I talk about the Pistons making a run in this game. That’s because he was, not surprisingly, largely held in check by Green. Griffin did score 24 points against the Warriors, but he did so on 6/14 shooting. Griffin scored 7 points in the fourth quarter, but 3 of them came after the game had been all-but-decided.

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Golden State Warriors
As always, things got exciting when Draymond Green and Blake Griffin matched up with one another.
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

It was a throwback to those great Warriors-Clippers battles of the mid-2010s with Green and Griffin battling it out. The defensive performance by Green (and the rest of the Warriors) against the Pistons certainly provided evidence for the notion that the team will be able to “flip the switch” and play great defense when the moment calls for it.

But though the Pistons made a couple runs in that fourth quarter, the Warriors were always ready to respond with big baskets like this one from Thompson, dropping in the final 3 of his 24 points in Sunday night’s game

The win over the Pistons, one that the final score made look much closer than it actually was, got rid of some of the bad vibes from that blowout loss to the Mavericks. The Warriors also took back the top spot in the Western Conference, reclaiming it from the Denver Nuggets.

The Warriors now head out on the road for two games, starting with a Wednesday night showdown with the Memphis Grizzlies.