Warriors smothering defense shuts down Magic

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Tim Povtak, The Sports Xchange
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ORLANDO, Fla. -- The Golden State Warriors are better known for their hot-shooting backcourt, but it is their defense that is turning them into serious contenders.

The Warriors won their sixth consecutive game -- the longest current winning streak in the NBA -- by smothering the Orlando Magic 94-81 on Tuesday night.

It was the 14th time this season -- second most in the league -- the Warriors held an opponent under 40 percent shooting from the field. The overwhelmed Magic managed just 38.2 percent (34 of 89).

"We're locked in defensively right now," said Warriors guard Stephen Curry. "And if we play like we're supposed to play, we can beat everyone in this league."

Warriors forward David Lee had 22 points, nine rebounds and two blocks in just 28 minutes. Guard Klay Thompson had 15 points. Curry had nine points and eight assists. Center Andrew Bogut had eight points and a game-high 11 rebounds.

The Warriors (20-13) never were challenged seriously after the first period and the starters watched the fourth quarter from the sideline. The Magic trailed by 20 points or more for much of the second half and never got closer than 13 points.

"We defended from the opening jump," said Warriors coach Mark Jackson. "We're in a rhythm right now, and we want to keep it going. The mentality becomes contagious. Guys are leading by example."

The Magic (10-21) were led by guard Arron Afflalo with 15 points and guard Jameer Nelson with 11 and six assists. Both were well under their averages.

"We've been this way all season long," Jackson said. "We've got to get some recognition as far as the way these guys defend on a high level -- contrary to popular belief."

The Magic lost starting center Nikola Vucevic midway in the first quarter with a sprained left ankle, the same injury that kept him out of four games early in December. He was hurt when he stepped on the foot of Bogut.

"You've got to give them credit," Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. "They were pretty suffocating defensively. They were big at the wings, and challenged our shots. And transition wise they really got out on us. Their ability to put pressure on us had us playing half-court offense, and then they were able to use their athleticism and length."

The Warriors, in the midst of their longest winning streak in six years, will try for their seventh consecutive victory Thursday in Miami against the defending champs.

"We're playing some good basketball right now and our defense is showing up. We're out their helping each other defensively, all on the same page. It's fun to play like this. We've got a tough task coming up in Miami."

The Warriors held a commanding 56-37 rebound edge against the Magic, who were trying to win their third consecutive game.

The Warriors took a 15-point lead into the final period after leading by as much as 25 points early in the third.

The Warriors led 58-35 at intermission, getting 16 points and six rebounds from Lee. After Thompson hit a 3-pointer for the early, 11-8 lead, the Warriors never lost the momentum.

The Magic were cold in the first half, making only one of nine 3-pointers and made only 15 of 43 from the field. The Warriors' early lead also came from a 30-14 rebounding advantage at intermission.

The Warriors shot well, making 41 of 85 shots (48.2 percent). And it wasn't just the starters, who played well. Guard Kent Bazemore had 12 points in 17 minutes. Forward Marreese Speights had 10 points and six rebounds. Forward Draymond Green had six points, nine rebounds and four blocked shots.

"Their (Warriors) defense is solid these days, and their communication is great, helping them get stops," said Magic reserve center Jason Maxiell, who had eight points. "They make it pretty tough on you."

NOTES: The Magic are pushing hard for G Arron Afflalo to reach the All-Star Game, hoping the coaches add him as a reserve next month. Afflalo is the third-highest scoring (21.9 ppg) guard in the Eastern Conference, trailing only Paul George and Kyrie Irving. In the five games leading into Tuesday, Afflalo averaged 23.8 points while shooting 60.8 percent from the field (42 of 69) and 76.5 percent (13 of 17) from 3-point range. "He is playing at an All-Star level," said Golden State coach Mark Jackson before the game. "He presents challenges for teams with the way he's playing." ... This was the second game of a seven-game road trip for the Warriors, who made a similar trip a year ago and finished 6-1 with the only loss in Orlando. Before Tuesday, the Warriors had lost four consecutive games in Orlando, and by an average of 23.3 points. In G Stephen Curry's three previous visits to Orlando, he shot just 36.4 percent from the field and averaged 16.3 points. ... The Magic came into the game having lost eight consecutive games to Western Conference opponents. ... The Warriors lead the NBA in games (13) decided by four points or fewer. They are 6-7 in those games.