OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — David Lee has been able to do something this March that he rarely has for most of his eight-year NBA career: watch what is happening around the league with a vested interest in the outcome.
Even mundane days like Wednesday can turn into big nights.
The All-Star forward tuned into other games in the afternoon, helped the Golden State Warriors grind out a 105-97 victory over the Detroit Pistons and returned to his locker to see what went down while he had been on the court.
“I’ve been on a lot of teams where you’re waiting for the season to be over,” said Lee, who had 20 points, 15 rebounds and five assists. “It doesn’t matter what else is going on because you’re not in any kind of race. That’s why this time of year is exciting and we’re going to make the most of it.”
Stephen Curry had 31 points and eight assists, and Jarrett Jack finished with 19 points and five assists off the bench to make sure the Warriors avoided a monumental setback. They improved to 4-2 on their season-high, seven-game homestand, which ends Friday against Chicago, and remained 1 games ahead of Houston for sixth place in the Western Conference.
Among the other news Golden State learned: The Los Angeles Lakers (34-32) lost 96-92 at Atlanta to fall three games behind the Warriors and stayed in the eighth and final playoff spot. The Lakers also lost star Kobe Bryant to a severely sprained left ankle. He is out indefinitely.
“We can just say we’re worried about ourselves,” said Lee, who has never been to the playoffs. “But all these other games do matter.”
Not so much in Motown these days.
Rodney Stuckey scored 22 points and Kyle Singler had 16 in Detroit’s seventh straight loss. Reserve Will Bynum added 16 points to help fill the void left by Brandon Knight, who sat out with a sprained left ankle.
Detroit now has had losing streaks of six (from Dec. 11-19), seven (presently) and eight (Oct. 31 to Nov. 12) games this season.
“The beginning of the game disappointed me the most because those first six possessions that they scored on, we made basically game-plan mistakes or just a lack of effort,” said Pistons assistant coach Brian Hill, who is filling in while Lawrence Frank is attending to a family matter. “From that point on, I thought we played hard and I thought we played pretty well.”
A seemingly one-sided matchup hardly looked like it for most of the night.
After crushing the New York Knicks 92-63 on Monday, Golden State’s co-captains carried the Warriors through a game the team often looked lethargic and uninterested. Curry was 5 of 7 from 3-point range, and Lee had another strong performance while wearing a white wrap around his bruised left knee.
The Warriors outshot the Pistons 57 to 45 percent.
Curry connected on a corner 3-pointer, then hit another to cap a 15-5 run in the first 3:02. The crafty point guard swished a short jumper later in the first quarter to give Golden State a 23-11 lead that seemingly had them running away with another blowout win.
Instead, the Warriors relaxed and the Pistons piled up points.
Stuckey stole a pass from Lee that led to a put-back layup from Bynum on the other end to put Detroit ahead by three. With the shot-clock winding down, Curry made his fourth 3-pointer to tie the score at 50 at the half.
“I was upset because I understand what it takes to win in this league,” Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. “It’s not easy, no matter whom you’re facing. I wanted to put them away when we could and not give them life.”
Curry led the charge again in the third quarter, tossing in a pair of high-arcing finger rolls and assisting on some even higher-elevation dunks by Harrison Barnes, who had 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting. Curry later hit his fifth 3-pointer and made two free throws to put the Warriors up 80-68.
The pesky Pistons put up a fight until the end.
Bynum’s pull-up shot sliced Golden State’s lead to four midway through the fourth quarter. Jack answered with a jumper and a pair of free throws, and Klay Thompson’s reverse layup put the Warriors in front 96-86 with 4:27 remaining.
Detroit briefly fouled center Andrew Bogut walking up the floor. He made 1 of 2 free throws before Bynum hit another shot to bring the Pistons within six.
Then Curry split two defenders off a pick-and-roll by dribbling through his legs. He stopped in the lane and swished in a floater that put the Warriors ahead 102-94 to cement the victory.
“It was a lot of ins and outs,” Bynum said, “but defensively we still have to be a whole lot better.”
NOTES: Warriors F Draymond Green sprained his left ankle in the first half and didn’t return. He is day to day. … Jackson, also an undersized guard who was infamously dunked on by Tom Chambers in 1989, applauded Knight’s efforts for trying to stop Clippers C DeAndre Jordan’s viral alley-oop in Detroit’s loss at Los Angeles on Sunday. “I see people making jokes about it, but as a coach, you want him on your team,” Jackson said.