Warriors race past Lakers, their old nemesis

Dave Del Grande, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Lakers have owned the Golden State Warriors pretty much since the turn of the century, dominating their rivals to the north to the tune of 32 wins in 36 meetings.
Make that 32 of 37 now because, as Golden State coach Mark Jackson proclaimed after Monday's 109-103 Warriors win, "This is a different day."
The Warriors ended a six-game losing streak to the Lakers in emphatic fashion, racing to a 23-point lead in a contentious first half before keeping the visitors at arm's length throughout most of the final 24 minutes en route to a more-decisive-than-the-score-indicates victory at Oracle Arena.
"It's a message that was sent. I wanted my guys to understand that we are the better basketball team," Jackson said. "That can't be debated through 72 games.
"We respect them, and they have guys that will be in the Hall of Fame -- I believe they have four of them. That being said, this is a different day, and it's a different basketball team."
In a game with playoff-race ramifications for both clubs, the Warriors (41-31) got the better of their Pacific Division nemesis thanks in large part to the backcourt tandem of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, which combined for nine 3-pointers and 47 points.
Curry was able to play 43 of the game's 48 minutes after having been questionable until the pregame warmups. He turned his right ankle late in Saturday's home victory over Washington.
"It was pretty stiff this morning," Curry said. "If the game had been at 10 (a.m.), I wouldn't have played."
Instead, the game ended around 10 p.m., even if the Warriors basically stopped playing almost a half-hour earlier after having led by as many as 25 points. Golden State retained an 18-point cushion entering the fourth quarter.
"We might have found something," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said of the final 13 minutes, during which his team outscored the Warriors 29-17. "But, obviously, we need to stop losing."
The win helped Golden State's playoff outlook in many ways. It extended the Warriors' lead over the Houston Rockets to a full game in the battle for the No. 6 slot in the West, pushed them 4 1/2 games up on the No. 8 Lakers (36-35) with just 10 games to go and reduced their magic number for reaching the postseason for the first time in six years to six.
The Lakers, meanwhile, dropped a step back toward the chasing pack in the race for the West's final spot. Los Angeles is one game up on the Utah Jazz, 1 1/2 ahead of the Dallas Mavericks and 2 1/2 north of the Portland Trail Blazers.
"A lack of, probably, a focused effort. We still have that problem," D'Antoni said. "(There are) some things that we need to maybe change up on. We'll see."
Curry had a 25-point, 10-assist double-double in the win, and Thompson buried six 3-pointers to account for a majority of his 22 points.
And they got plenty of help. David Lee contributed 23 points and 12 rebounds to the win, and Jarrett Jack came off the bench to add 19 points.
Lee also drew blood from Lakers center Dwight Howard, smashing elbow-first into the big guy's mouth on a second-quarter drive to the hoop.
For his trouble, Howard received his third foul, a technical for verbally vowing revenge upon Lee, and, during the halftime break, three stitches to sew up his lip.
Howard wound up playing 37 minutes and contributing 11 points and 15 rebounds. Metta World Peace couldn't return after halftime, succumbing to a sore knee he said was the result of slipping on a wet spot on the court in the first half.
"We've all got minor injuries and are a bit mentally fatigued, but we can't use that as an excuse," Lakers backup Jodie Meeks said. "We've just got to fight through it and focus on what we're doing and keep fighting."
Lakers star Kobe Bryant had 36 points, but he shot just 11-for-27 overall and missed eight of his 10 3-point attempts. He was hounded by Thompson most of the night.
Steve Nash added 21 points, nine rebounds and seven assists for the Lakers, who flew to Minnesota after the game in advance of a road back-to-back Wednesday and Thursday against the Timberwolves and Milwaukee Bucks, respectively.
For all intents and purposes, the game was over by halftime, with Thompson and Curry scoring 16 points apiece in helping Golden State go into the break up 63-40.
The win was the Warriors' 41st of the season, a career-high number for veterans Curry and Lee.
"It's something to celebrate," Jackson said. "When we look at the other teams we are playing, they have experienced success. They know success, and they recognize success. It's something that is new to (the Warriors), and they truly deserve it."
Added Curry, "Similar to San Antonio, if you haven't beaten a team in a while, you take it personally. We didn't get San Antonio; we still owe them one."
NOTES: Even with the loss, the Lakers still lead the season series 2-1, with one last head-to-head scheduled in Los Angeles during the last week of the regular season. ... The Lakers' Pau Gasol played 22 1/2 minutes in his second outing following a 20-game absence due to a foot injury. He finished with seven points and eight rebounds. ... The Warriors' 4 1/2-game lead on the Lakers in the Pacific Division standings is the largest advantage over their California rivals at this point of the season since 1994. ... The Warriors had three players (Curry, Thompson and Lee) score 20 or more points in the same game for the first time since Jan. 29 against Cleveland.

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