Warriors' Curry returns with 29 points to beat Suns

Dave Del Grande, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Stephen Curry looked sharp as he walked into Oracle Arena on Saturday night. Make no mistake, he wasn't happy about it.
His goal: Convince the boss he was healthy enough to return from a three-game absence, which would allow him to swap his dark blazer for a white uniform.
Curry's slightly swollen right ankle passed its pregame test, and he went on to prove it was a good decision to let him play, contributing 29 points, eight assists and two steals to the Golden State Warriors' 113-93 thumping of the Phoenix Suns.
In helping the Warriors (30-17) record their 30th win earlier than any season since 1976, Curry seemingly had more trouble before the game than during a performance in which he hit 6-of-10 3-point attempts and 11-of-20 shots overall.
"This is the third time this season we've had this back-and-forth with what I feel and what the trainers feel," Curry said of his pregame sales pitch. He'd been 0-for-2 on the previous occasions.
"I brought my sportcoat just in case," he noted of the NBA-mandated requirement for injured players seated on the bench.
Turns out it was only needed for the walk to and from his car, thanks in large part to what Warriors coach Mark Jackson labeled a "soft spot."
"He gives me that look that my kids give me when they want a special toy at Christmas," Jackson said of his interaction with Curry at the morning shootaround. "I've got four kids. I've got to tell you, it works. I have a soft spot."
Curry, who played 42 minutes, packed 11 of his points in a 4:47 span of the third period, a quarter that once saw the Warriors trailing by 10 before turning things around with a 30-10 flurry.
In one of the club's best team efforts of the season --the Warriors recorded a season-high 34 assists -- Harrison Barnes matched his season-high with 21 points and eight rebounds, Klay Thompson had 17 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, and David Lee recorded yet another double-double with 16 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists.
With Jarrett Jack also dishing off seven assists, it was the first time in Warriors history that they had four more players with seven or more assists. But what made this night special was it was the first for the Warriors since Nov. 7 with a healthy Curry and Andrew Bogut in the starting lineup together.
"We are a different basketball team with those guys on the floor," Jackson assured. "Offensively, defensively ... it puts everybody in their proper rotational spot. When you start the type of lineup that we start, we have every right to believe that we can win any ballgame we play in."
Coming off a 109-99 home loss to Dallas on Friday night, the Suns (16-32) fell to 3-4 under new coach Lindsey Hunter. Phoenix failed to complete a Pacific Division sweep after having beaten the Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings since undergoing the recent coaching change.
"We've got a lot of work to do," Hunter assured. "We haven't been at this long. There's a lot more foundation to be laid and we're all-in to do it. It's going to take time."
The Warriors turned the game in their favor in the third quarter, immediately following their low point of the night.
Phoenix came out from the halftime break intent upon extracting revenge for its home loss to Golden State on opening night. Jared Dudley had a 3-pointer and Goran Dragic a three-point play as the Suns scored the first six points of the half to increase a four-point lead to 58-48.
But the Warriors responded immediately with a 13-point flurry of their own to take a lead they relinquished only momentarily. Barnes and Curry had three-point plays in the run, which propelled Golden State into a 61-58 lead near the midpoint of the period.
After the Suns regained a one-point advantage on two Dudley free throws, Curry buried a pair of 3-pointers among three hoops and Carl Landry dropped in two baskets during a 17-6 burst that vaulted Golden State into a 78-68 lead.
When the Warriors opened the fourth period by scoring nine consecutive points -- Curry had another 3 and two assists in the run -- it was a 16-point game and the Warriors enjoyed their easiest home win in exactly a month, dating back to a 115-92 blowout of the Clippers on Jan. 2.
Lee knew where the credit belonged.
"You mean 'Willis Reed Curry?'" he said with a chuckle. "He came back tonight and played the way Steph is capable of playing. He really led us in that second half, not only making plays for himself but finding other guys."
Michael Beasley, taking 23 shots, led the Suns with 24 points. Dudley had 16 points.
"Everyone knows what they're doing now. It's just having to break some bad habits, and that takes time," Dudley observed. "Sometimes that takes half a season or a full year. Right now, it's only been a couple of weeks."
NOTES: All five Warriors starters scored in double figures for just the second time this season. ... Lee has four consecutive games with at least 15 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists. No NBA player since Kevin Garnett in 2003 has had such a four-game run. ... Both teams headed to the Midwest after the game. The Suns will tip off a three-game swing Tuesday in Memphis at just about the same time the Warriors are beginning a four-game trip at Houston. ... The game matched coaches with no previous head-coaching experience before getting their current gigs. Both feel the same way about prior experience: It's overrated. "As a point guard," Hunter said, "you've always had to have a connection with the coach. So that's coaching in a way." ... Asked why he was quick to give his Pacific Division rival some tips upon getting the job, Jackson responded, "When I was in that position, there are certain guys that I will forever be grateful to that reached out. They told me they would be there and made me better."

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