What we learned as Steph's return sparks Dubs' crucial win vs. Lakers

What we learned as Steph's return sparks Dubs' crucial win vs. Lakers originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

Stephen Curry scored 31 points in his first game back from an ankle injury, Klay Thompson poured in 26 off the bench and the Warriors picked up a much-needed and pivotal 128-121 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday at Arena.

Golden State’s 10th victory in its last 12 road games moved the Warriors (35-31) percentage points ahead of the Lakers (36-32) for the No. 9 seed in the Western Conference playoff race.

Curry had missed Golden State’s previous three games with a right ankle injury but was cleared after practicing in Southern California on Friday. He came out slow and was held scoreless in the first quarter before finding his rhythm. Two days after his 36th birthday, the two-time NBA MVP shot 12 of 24 and made three 3-pointers.

Jonathan Kuminga continued his emergence as one of the Warriors’ top scoring threats with 23 points. It’s the sixth consecutive game and the 44th time in his last 46 games that Kuminga has reached double figures.

Draymond Green, also back in the starting lineup, had his sixth double-double of the 2023-24 NBA season with 12 rebounds and tied his season-high of 13 assists.

Andrew Wiggins added 16 points and six rebounds to help the Warriors to their first road win against the Lakers since Oct. 10, 2021.

The Lakers appeared to get within 124-120 on a 3-pointer by LeBron James with 2:07 remaining. Replays on television appeared to show that James’ left heel was out of bounds, and after a lengthy replay review, the call was overturned.

There was another long replay review moments later when Green appeared to throw a ball off Austin Reaves that went out of bounds. Referees ruled in the Lakers' favor and awarded them the ball with 1:48 left.

A malfunctioning shot-clock delayed the end of the game even more, drawing boos from the crowd and raising eyebrows among the players.

Golden State had to overcome its own defensive struggles to win.

The Lakers got a ton of open looks and shot 60 percent in the first quarter, making eight 3-pointers in the first half alone.

The Warriors overcame all of that along with another stellar game from James, who scored 40 points, eight rebounds and nine assists.

Golden State trailed for much of the first half before flipping the script in the third quarter, outscoring Los Angeles 35-28. Curry led the charge with 13 of his points during that stretch.

Here are the takeaways from Saturday’s game:

Klay baking

Back to coming off the bench now that the team is back to full strength, Thompson was nothing short of spectacular in the first half. He hit shots that were off-balance, contested or wide open. Nothing that the Lakers tried to slow him down worked.

Coming off a rough showing against the Dallas Mavericks when he missed 10 of 13 shots, Thompson came out cooking against the Lakers and was the biggest reason Golden State’s offense was so smooth.

Thompson looked very much like the perimeter sniper he’s been throughout his NBA career. He nailed four threes in the first half when he poured in 21 of his points.

However far the Warriors get this season, Thompson deserves a lot of the credit. The five-time All-Star wasn’t happy about being removed from the starting lineup but didn’t make much of a fuss or gripe about it.

If a future Hall of Famer can do that as smoothly as Thompson has, no one else on this team has any reason to complain about their own minutes.

JK finds his touch

Kuminga didn’t do much attacking in the first half, but he didn’t need to. That’s because he had a smooth shooting touch from mid-range and behind the arc.

JK scored 17 points in the first half and only made one attempt to drive hard toward the rack. With a jumper that was nice and smooth, Kuminga nailed five of his first seven shots, including a pair of 3-pointers, and had 17 points in the first half.

With Anthony Davis missing most of the second quarter and all of the second half dealing with an eye injury, Kuminga showed how dominant he can be inside with a pair of alley-oop dunks off feeds from Green late in the second quarter.

The Draymond Effect

Make no mistake, getting Green back was just as key for the Warriors as was Curry coming back.

Green faced a tough task trying to contain Davis because of the obvious size differential, and held his own in the matchup before Davis left the game in the first half.

Green does so much more for the Warriors than just quarterback the defense. He didn’t do much shooting (3 of 6) but kept the offense moving by moving the ball around and grabbing key rebounds.

Like Curry, Green’s mere presence alone has a calming influence on his teammates. Golden State absolutely needs him healthy for this stretch run, so expect Steve Kerr to monitor his minutes closely to keep him fresh. Green played more than 34 minutes against the Lakers.

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