INDIANAPOLIS (AP) —Stephen Curry‘s first-half shooting clinic was virtually flawless.
His championship teammates pitched in, too.
Curry scored 23 of his 26 points in the first half Monday and Golden State ran away with a 132-100 rout at Indiana for its league-leading 11th consecutive victory. The two-time defending champions still aren’t satisfied.
“I feel like we can,” Curry said when asked if the Warriors can get even better. “We’re not playing perfect basketball, by any stretch, but we’re playing consistent, focused basketball and we’re still working out some kinks with rotations and stuff like that.”
It’s a scary thought for the rest of the league, especially after the two-time MVP turned in another head-turning performance.
Curry made his first eight shots and his first six 3-pointers, including a demoralizing 27-foot buzzer-beater that gave the Warriors a 69-48 halftime lead. He finished 10 of 13 from the field with six rebounds, three assists and two steals in just 27 minutes. About the only thing he didn’t do well was celebrate Klay Thompson‘s huge dunk.
DeMarcus Cousins had a season-high 22 points on a night five players scored in double figures and the Warriors had 39 assists.
And all that came on the final leg of a five-game road trip without Draymond Green, who rested, and against the league’s No. 1 scoring defense.
“I was a little worried about this game. Everybody’s anxious to get home,” coach Steve Kerr said. “But we finished off the trip the right way. We’ve been more dialed in the last month than we have all season.”
Golden State has won a league-high 10 consecutive road games and swept a five-game trip for the first time since November 2014.
The Pacers played without All-Star guard Victor Oladipo, who had season-ending surgery on his right knee Monday, and Tyreke Evans, Oladipo’s replacement, because of a sore back. But even at full strength, they may have struggled to weather the Warriors’ flurry.
Indiana gave up a season-high 40 points in the first quarter, and never got closer than 16 after Curry broke a 16-16 tie by scoring eight points to start a decisive 24-6 quarter-closing run en route to its most lopsided loss this season.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that this team is going on the up track,” Pacers guard Darren Collison said. “I think we saw tonight, playing against a team like that, how to execute and we can take something from that.”
Myles Turner scored 16 points and Bojan Bogdanovic had 15 but Indiana lost for the second straight time since Oladipo was injured last week. It was the Pacers’ worst loss this season.
Pacers: Victor Oladipo out for rest of season with ruptured quad tendon
Victor Oladipo underwent an MRI Thursday that revealed he has a ruptured quad tendon in his right knee, sustained with 4:05 to play in the second quarter of Wednesday night’s game against Toronto. He will undergo surgery at a date to be determined and will be out for the season.
This is devastating. The Pacers lose their top player in a season they appeared capable of beating anyone in the Eastern Conference. And Oladipo must recover from a major setback that threatens his explosiveness long-term.
Third-place Indiana still has a seven-game buffer over sixth place in the Eastern Conference. The Pacers should still make the playoffs and get at least a first-round matchup with whatever of the Raptors, Bucks, Celtics and 76ers finishes with the worst record.
Indiana has played slightly better without Oladipo this season, but that’s with Oladipo being their go-to player in the highest-leverage situations. Make no mistake: The Pacers are far worse without Oladipo.
Now, Indiana must assess its roster before the trade deadline. Look for reinforcement to remain as competitive as possible without Oladipo? Stand pat and let Tyreke Evans, Bojan Bogdanovic, Darren Collison and Cory Joseph assume larger roles? Accept reduced expectations and sell (especially players on expiring contracts like Thaddeus Young, Bogdanovic, Collison, Joseph and Evans)? There are no easy answers.
Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.
1) D’Angelo Russell serves his revenge cold-hearted against Lakers. Do you remember what Magic Johnson said after the Lakers traded D’Angelo Russell to the Brooklyn Nets?
“We want to thank him for what he did for us. But what I needed was a leader.”
Russell remembers. And Tuesday night against the Lakers he played with all the swagger Magic and the Lakers thought he lacked (and we haven’t seen all that consistently in Brooklyn). Russell was every bit a leader. And a scorer. And an assist man. Russell had 22 points, 13 dimes and the Nets got the win, 115-110.
There are two takeaways from this game.
First, the Nets are scrappy and have some talent — they have won six in a row for a reason (with wins over the Raptors, Sixers, and Lakers in there). The streak has revived the question “could the Nets make the playoffs?” They are just 1.5 games out of the eight seed out East. The Nets have done that with an elite offense (117.6 points per 100 possessions in the streak, third best in the NBA) covering up for a still bottom 10 defense. More than that, the Nets are a walking life lesson: Grit and effort will beat out unmotivated talent. Brooklyn is beating teams that look better than them on paper because they want it more and execute better — and that speaks to what coach Kenny Atkinson has built. It speaks to the right culture, one that will thrive as the talent increases.
The second takeaway? The Lakers need JaVale McGee. Which is a weird thing to type, especially considering Brandon Ingram and Rajon Rondo both missed the game as well. But the reality is the Lakers are thin up front — remember the start of the season when JaVale looked like a defensive force and the Lakers fell apart when he had to sit, meaning Kyle Kuzma or LeBron James had to play center? Then Los Angeles picked up Tyson Chandler and suddenly the Laker defense looked top 10 in the league. McGee has missed the last two games, Laker losses to Washington and Brooklyn, with flu-like symptoms. That moved Chandler into the starting lineup, but when he sits the Lakers are thin again. The Lakers may be 18-13 but they are built on thin margins — LeBron needs to play like an MVP and the Laker depth has to be good enough to support him to win. LeBron had 36 in this game, but in the 6:48 he sat in this game the Lakers were -9 and lost. The depth was not there.
Plus, Jarrett Allen did this to LeBron and became the hero of NBA Twitter for a night.
That’s cold. Just the way Russell wanted to serve it up.
2) Larry Nance Jr. tips in the game-winner and Cleveland stops Indiana’s win streak. The Indiana Pacers had won 7 in a row and came into Tuesday night as hot as any team in the NBA. The Cleveland Cavaliers were scuffling without Kevin Love, Jordan Clarkson and Tristan Thompson.
So what happens? The Pacers seemed to be looking ahead to a showdown with the Raptors Wednesday and came out lifeless. The ball movement and offensive spark that was at the heart of the win streak came to a screeching halt — Indiana shot 39.8 overall and a dreadful 18.2 percent from three. Victor Oladipo, Darren Collison, Cory Joseph, and Tyreke Evans combined to shoot 9-of-36 on the night.
That let the Cavaliers hang around, and then this happened — Larry Nance tipping in the game winner.
Cleveland hasn’t had a lot to celebrate this season, so they did.
If you’re one of the Pacers fans complaining that in wrestling for position to get off the game-winning tip that Nance fouled Oladipo… come on. First, you’re never going to get that call in that situation, the refs are going to let them play. Also, THAT’S NOT WHY THE PACERS LOST. Go rewatch the first 47 minutes of the game. Or, just go re-read the second paragraph of No. 2 of our three things to know. That’s why the Pacers lost.
At least they shouldn’t be tired against Toronto on Wednesday.
3) Denver has won four in a row, leads the West, and Nikola Jokic is getting MVP mentions. What a world. In a West where the Warriors have gotten healthy, it is Denver that is still sitting atop the West and riding a four-game win streak — over Memphis, Oklahoma City, Toronto, and now Dallas — despite a rash of injuries robbing them of their depth.
After Tuesday night’s win over Dallas, Denver has won four in a row and is 21-9 on the season. How? At the heart of the matter is the big man playing at an All-NBA level who is getting some fringe MVP buzz — Nikola Jokic. He had 32.
Denver is legit people. In a West where we have no idea which team will come out of the pack and take on the Warriors next May in the conference finals, Denver has a real shot at it. They have the star player in Jokic, a good supporting cast, the fourth best defense and the seventh best offense in the league. It will come down to health and matchups in the West in the end, but Denver has as good a shot as anyone to dance with the Warriors in May.
Coming off just their second home loss of the season, a 127-124 defeat to the visiting Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday, the Philadelphia 76ers now have to deal with the freight train that is the Indiana Pacers at 7:30 p.m. on Friday at Wells Fargo Center.
Indiana has won five straight, including a 16-point win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night, the team’s seventh win in nine games. The Pacers have crept up to within a half-game of Philadelphia in the standings at 18-10 (the Sixers are 19-10) by relying on one of the deepest offenses in the league.
On Wednesday in the 113-97 win over the Bucks, Indiana had six players in double-figures (Milwaukee had four) and the Pacers’ reserves outscored the Bucks’ 34-25. Indiana’s backups also stifled a Milwaukee offense that shot 41 percent from the field and 25 percent from 3-point range, with Giannis Antetokounmpo finishing with just 12 points.
“That second unit is back intact and we want to continue to build off of what we are doing and establish ourselves as this team that keeps guys out of the paint and focuses on limiting rotations so that teams are trying to beat us over the top,” head coach Nate McMillan said. “That way we can stay at home with our man, box out and rebound.”
With Victor Oladipo back from a knee injury that sidelined him 11 games, Indiana is back at a full complement of players and climbing in the East.
“Guys stepped up and played huge,” Oladipo said after his first game back. “Myles (Turner), Thad (Young), D.C. (Darren Collison) hit big shots down the stretch. I’m just glad to be back to help.”
Oladipo’s return complicates things for the 76ers, who could be without star Jimmy Butler for the second straight game with a strained groin. Butler’s absence was missed against the Nets on Wednesday as Brooklyn shot 51 percent from the field, with Spencer Dinwiddie contributing a career-high 39 points off the bench.
“When you look at the bench scoring, we got hurt there tonight; I give their bench credit,” Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said. “I give Brooklyn a lot of credit. I think that they are a good team to begin with. I do not feel like their record reflects how good they are, I especially know that no matter what their record said, we struggle with that type of team and we did tonight. It doesn’t discount for me that we do struggle with that type of team.”
Even with Joel Embiid‘s 17 rebounds to go along with 33 points, the Sixers still managed to just tie the Nets in boards at 41 while Brooklyn made it to the free-throw line for an absurd 43 attempts, making an even more impressive 37 of them.
“I think that some of it was bad defense, some of it was let down schematically, some of our good shooters still getting off shots, I think it’s a hybrid of them making some shots, us being a C- at times with our aggression and maybe a C schematically trying to execute a game with their individual players. I would put some blame proportionally all over the place.”
Lonzo Ball gets Darren Collison with fantastic chase-down block