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The defense came alive and Steph Curry dominated as Warriors win

Steph Curry was again electric, and the defense finally showed up.

Steph Curry driving with his left hand against Caris LeVert Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

We’ve been waiting for weeks for the Golden State Warriors to start playing the kind of defense that they rode to a championship just a few months ago. And on Friday night against the Cleveland Cavaliers — arguably the best team in the NBA over the first month of the season — the defense finally made its presence felt in a good way.

Unfortunately for the Warriors though, the Cavs brought an elite defense of their own to the Bay Area. And it became abundantly clear from the start of the game that we were in for a close contest.

After threes by the Splash Brothers on the opening possessions, the game turned into a grind-it-out fest ... not in the ugly way, but in the ultra high-quality way. It felt like playoff basketball.

The Warriors turned things over to the bench halfway through the first, and you held your breath. They’ve been so badly lately. But they kept the defensive party going to end the first quarter. Their offense slowed to a screeching halt, but the energy was there, and they kept Cleveland’s offense in check, leading to a 25-25 tie after 12 minutes.

That became critical in the second quarter when Steph Curry got into foul trouble. The bench — which got an energy boost from the return of Donte DiVincenzo — was up to the task of holding down the fort. Despite Curry’s foul issues, the Warriors trailed by only four points at halftime, with Jordan Poole finding his rhythm with some huge shots.

And then came the third quarter, and with it, flashbacks of the awful initial weeks of the season. After briefly taking the lead, the Warriors offense went ice cold, as the Cavs went on a 14-0 run to take an 11-point lead. But a few huge shots from Curry ignited the offense, and the Warriors ended the third on a run of their own, trailing by just three to enter the fourth.

Again the Warriors relied on the bench, namely Poole, DiVincenzo, and Anthony Lamb, who played very well. They kept the Dubs in the game until Curry and the starters could return, and then we were blessed with the greatest thing in sports: a Curry Flurry.

Steph went absolutely ballistic in the fourth quarter. He made pull-up threes. He made relocation threes. He did that indescribable wizardry around the rim stuff. He made passes that made you scratch your head, in a good way.

And he swung the game with a sequence. With under a minute and a half remaining, Curry made a relocation three to tie the game.

Then, after a defensive stand and a brilliant pass from Kevon Looney, Curry sank the go-ahead layup in transition with under a minute remaining.

A Jarrett Allen free throw pulled Cleveland within one, then Curry — in my eyes the greatest two-for-one player in NBA history — pulled up for a three, and hit them with the night-night.

The fourth quarter was anything but easy, with Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland showing off for Cleveland, the Cavs reminding everyone why their double-big lineup of Allen and Evan Mobley is so terrifying, and the refs having one of the loosest whistles in recent memory.

But they bit down on their collective defensive mouthpiece and Curry — despite missing two late free throws — dropped 18 points in the quarter to, once again, put the team on his back.

And with that, the Warriors won 106-101, and, miraculously, have their first winning streak of the season.

Curry finished with 40 points on 16-for-23 shooting, including 6-for-11 from distance, as he continues to look like the best player in the NBA to start the year. Andrew Wiggins had a highly-efficient 20 points on 8-for-13 shooting, with excellent defense. Draymond Green’s defense was the best it’s been all year, as he recorded the type of statline he’s known for: 2 points, 10 rebounds, 13 assists.

Poole had one of his better games of the year, which was wonderful to see, with 18 points on 6-for-13 shooting, and Klay Thompson, while struggling again to score, played very strong defense on Mitchell down the stretch.

As far as the bench unit goes, Jonathan Kuminga got first quarter minutes and then never played again after his initial four-minute stretch. James Wiseman, Moses Moody, and JaMychal Green all were DNPs.

The Warriors have Saturday off before visiting the Sacramento Kings on Sunday.

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