What we learned as gritty defensive effort fuels Warriors win vs. Hornets

What we learned as gritty defensive effort fuels Warriors win vs. Hornets originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO – Steve Kerr was given a contract extension before Friday’s game against the Charlotte Hornets. The Warriors then gave their coach even more reason to celebrate with a dominating 97-84 win on Friday night at Chase Center.

Paced by 15 points and five assists from Stephen Curry, the Warriors had five players score in double figures.

Curry also reached yet another remarkable milestone in a career already overflowing with so many. He moved past Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor into 33rd place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. Curry now has 23,160 career points while Baylor had 23,149.

Andrew Wiggins scored 14 points. Klay Thompson had 13, while Brandin Podziemski added 13 points, six rebounds, and six assists. Gary Payton II scored 12 points, and Draymond Green had five points, 13 rebounds and finished a team-high plus-18.

That kept the Warriors rolling, winning for the 10th time in their past 13 games. Arguably the hottest team in the Western Conference, Golden State (29-26) remains a half-game behind the Los Angeles Lakers for the No. 9 seed in the Western Conference playoff picture.

Before tip-off, Kerr talked with reporters about the possibility of this being a trap game for his team, given that Charlotte (14-42) has had a rough season but was riding a four-game winning streak going in.

Instead, it wasn’t even close.

The Warriors won handily behind a stellar defense that limited the Hornets to only 29 points in the first half. It’s the fewest points that Golden State has allowed in any half this season by far.

Podziemski provided the game’s signature moment when he started to drive the lane, stopped and canned a step-back jumper that sent Charlotte’s Vasilije Micić sprawling on his backside. Led by Green, who waved a towel wildly at the play, the Warriors’ bench erupted, as did the crowd.

It wasn’t all pretty. The Warriors committed seven turnovers in each of the first two quarters and finished with 22 total, which led to 15 points for the Hornets.

The game got chippy at the end.

Golden State’s Lester Quinones and Charlotte’s Grant Williams appeared to get into a small fracas with 11 seconds remaining. Players and coaches from both squads entered the fray before being separated. Quinones was tagged with two technical fouls, while Miles Bridges also received one. Williams was hit with a tech as well and ejected.

Here are the takeaways from Friday’s win:

Steph vs. Seth

For the 14th time during the regular season, the Curry boys went at it while their father, former NBA star Dell Curry, made history during the game. It was the first time in NBA history that a father has been on the broadcast for a game featuring both of his sons. The elder Curry had broadcast games that included either of his sons previously, but never when they faced off against one another.

Steph got the upper hand again and improved to 10-4 lifetime against his brother.

Stephen Curry, who has been shooting lights out recently, cooled off significantly and was 5 of 14 (3 of 11 on 3-pointers). Seth Curry, who matched up a few times against his brother, had six points on 2 of 8 shooting in 25 minutes.

Defense does it

The primary reason the Warriors struggled earlier in the season was their defense, or lack thereof. Part of that was due to Green’s absence while he served an NBA suspension, but the team has been much more effective since his return.

Golden State held the Hornets to 29 points in the first half, the fewest they’ve surrendered in any half this season. The previous mark was the 44 points they gave up to the Atlanta Hawks in the second half on Jan. 24.

Scoring has and never will be much of an issue for the Warriors as long as Curry is healthy and playing. The defense, however, likely will be the determining factor for the remainder of the season and into the playoffs.

Payton returns with impact

Payton looked fine after missing Thursday’s game because of an illness. He provided a nice scoring spark off the bench and spent part of his night defending Hornets’ rookie Brandon Miller.

The second overall pick in the 2023 draft, Miller had his least productive game in nearly a month, scoring 11 points on 4 of 14 shooting.

Payton, whose offense sometimes gets overlooked because of all the other scorers on Golden State’s roster, added another key piece to Golden State’s second unit. He shot 5 of 8 and was a plus-six in 11.5 minutes.

It’s yet another step for the Warriors to get back to full strength, and the timing couldn’t be better. Chris Paul could be activated on the team’s upcoming road trip, adding another key part of the puzzle for a potential playoff run.

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