San Francisco – Stephen Curry got a few great birthday gifts from the Warriors on Sunday to mark his 33rd birthday. One was a popcorn-themed cake from the Chase Center, another were a pair of custom Under Armour shoes designed by his kids, but more importantly he and the Warriors got a big 131-119 win over the Utah Jazz who hold the best record in the NBA.
Golden State recorded their 20th win of the season on a rare Sunday matinee at home. They snapped a four-game losing streak and returned home for their first game since the All-Star break.
“I liked our intensity from the start to the finish,” said Warriors head coach Steve Kerr. “I thought we stayed with it, stayed into them the entire night.
This is a midseason win against a great team and we’re happy about the win, but we have another game tomorrow.”
Prior to today’s game, Kerr talked about the importance of the team being able to practice for the first time in a while being a key for todays matchup. After the win, Kerr again emphasized the importance of the team having two days to practice.
“This was a couple of days result of practice and gathering our wits and understanding the situation that we were in,” Kerr explained. “You can practice competition, and we had a good practice two days ago where we got to compete. There’s not a lot of time where you can do that during the NBA season.”
Now the oldest player on the Warriors roster, Curry dropped 32 points, had a rare free throw miss that would’ve given him 33 to match his birthday. He shot 50 percent from the court along with going 6-for-9 from beyond the arc with nine assists and five rebounds. A big improvement after he struggled going 1-for-8 from deep in the loss at the Clippers Thursday night.
“We set the tone early,” said Curry said. “Totally night and day difference from when we were in Utah.”
However, alongside Curry’s big birthday performance, Andrew Wiggins and Draymond Green popped off against the Jazz. Wiggins scored a season-high 28 points, going 12-for-16 from the court along with 3-for-4 from beyond the arc with three steals and rebounds. His performance on Sunday marked his first 20-plus point game since he dropped 23 against the Miami Heat last month.
“It’s just refreshing,” Wiggins said about coming back from the All-Star break. “You get a couple days to sit back and relax your body, relax your legs, have peace of mind, hang with the family, and you’re just fresh coming back.
“I feel like I was in a pretty good rhythm during the whole game and I just tried to stay consistent with it and stay aggressive.”
Green finished with his 26th career triple-double, scoring 11 points with 12 rebounds and 12 assists on the night. He also added four steals and was a defensive force against arguably the best team in the NBA.
The bench also had one of their best performances of the season, Jordan Poole and James Wiseman combined for 34 points, going a combined 14-for-22 with Poole hitting three times beyond the arc. The other birthday boy, Nico Mannion, added five points off the bench with a pair of assists and steals. The highly regarded young trio for the Warriors combined for 39 of the 51 total points off the bench.
Wiseman handled one of the best centers in the league, Rudy Gobert while Poole continued to showcase his improved scoring. Green, who’s taken Wiseman under his wing this season, was very impressed with how Wiseman stood up to the challenge.
“That wasn’t the easiest game plan to follow, and he followed the game plan to a tee,” said Green. “He battled with one of the top centers in the league.”
The Warriors led almost the whole game with the Jazz taking the lead just once. Royce O’Neale and Mike Conley hit back-to-back 3s with the Warriors up 10-5 early. After a timeout following Conley’s 3 that put Utah up by one, the Warriors went on a 15-0 run through most of the first quarter, taking a 33-22 lead after the period ended. They never trailed after that.
Utah rallied back in the fourth quarter, pulling within a point after Jordan Clarkson’s hookshot with 7:36 left, but Eric Paschall’s jumper followed by Poole’s dunk, along with back-to-back 3s were enough to hold off the Jazz in the final minutes.
“That’s who this team could be when we defend at the level we defended tonight,” Green said regarding the team’s defense. “Great win, but it matters what we do coming out of this win. If you don’t come out of this win playing the same type of inspired basketball, it doesn’t matter.”
Photo by Warriors/Twitter