Stephen Curry’s shooting stroke flowed so smoothly he swished shots without even looking at the basket.
At one point, the Los Angeles Clippers cornered Curry on the sideline near the Golden State Warriors’ bench. The 6-foot-10 Lamar Odom tried to crowd Curry out of bounds, and the diminutive point guard never hesitated to chuck up the shot.
”I lost sight of the rim and I knew it was going in,” Curry said. ”I haven’t been that locked-in in a while.”
Curry scored 25 of his 31 points in the first half, David Lee finished with 24 points and 13 rebounds and the Warriors coasted past the ailing Clippers 115-94 on Wednesday night.
After winning a franchise-record 17 straight games, Los Angeles has suddenly dropped two straight and has Golden State surging from behind.
Curry made nine of his first 10 shots, including 4 of 5 from beyond the arc, and added eight assists and six rebounds to pace Golden State’s 26-8 spurt to start the game. His twice-surgically repaired right ankle healthy again, Curry – along with Lee – is making a strong case to be the first All-Star for the Warriors since Latrell Sprewell in 1997.
”If my two guys didn’t make a statement, I don’t know what else they have to,” Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. Later, he added, ”Maybe I’ll hold my own game if these two guys aren’t in there.”
Jackson talked before the game about how he had a board installed at the team’s headquarters that shows the NBA standings before players walk out to the practice court. One day over the holiday break, the Warriors official in charge of updating the standings was off, and players pitched a fit when the board shorted them a win.
For a franchise that has missed the playoffs all but once since 1994, it’s hard not to pay attention to the latest Pacific Division standings: The Warriors (22-10) are only 2 1/2 games behind the Clippers (25-8).
Jamal Crawford scored 24 points on a sore left foot and Chris Paul had 23 points and six rebounds for the Clippers, playing with heavy hearts after learning of the death of owner Donald Sterling’s son earlier in the day. Small forward Caron Butler also wasn’t with Los Angeles because of personal reasons.
After owning the NBA’s longest winning streak since the Boston Celtics rolled off 19 consecutive games from Nov. 15 to Dec. 23, 2008, Los Angeles has struggled to shoot in losses at Denver and Golden State. The Clippers shot 38.5 percent in Tuesday night’s 92-78 loss at Denver and 36.4 percent at Golden State, ending a difficult 24 hours for the franchise.
Scott Ashley Sterling was found dead of an apparent drug overdose at his Malibu home late Tuesday night, authorities said. He was 32.
Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said before the game the Sterling family’s loss was ”first and foremost on everybody’s mind.” He also said he wanted to ”see what we’re made of” in the first game since his team’s record winning streak ended, especially considering the Clippers lost four straight before their record run.
Instead, the Warriors became the first team to beat the Clippers twice this season.
”We were just not sharp,” Del Negro said.
”We just kind of hit a little bit of a wall,” said Clippers forward Blake Griffin, who had 10 points and six rebounds. ”They completely outplayed us tonight in almost every area.”
This was no normal Clippers-Warriors matchup.
Every fan received a ”Winter Whiteout” T-shirt to watch two perennial losing franchises that are among the NBA’s hottest and most surprising this season. The two franchises had never met with both in first and second in the same division at the turn of the new year, going back to the 1978-89 season when the Clippers moved West from Buffalo.
The Warriors built a big lead in a hurry from beyond the arc and never relented. Curry, Barnes and Klay Thompson each swished a 3-pointer to give Golden State an 18-point lead late in the first quarter.
”That set the tone better than we have ever this year,” Curry said.
Former Warriors small forward Matt Barnes brought the Clippers back, igniting a 27-5 run while hustling hard on both ends. Barnes, who started in Butler’s place, converted a pair of 3s and a running layup to slice Golden State’s lead to four early in the second quarter.
Curry returned and helped the Warriors go 12 for 23 from long range. He also started a three-point play with a running shot off the backboard while getting fouled by Paul, pumping his chest with both arms in an emphatic celebration. The Warriors led 62-49 at the break behind Curry, whose 25 points were the most a Warriors player has scored in any half this season.
”When he’s in a rhythm like that, I don’t talk a whole lot to him. I just try to set screens and give him any kind of daylight, because he’s a special player,” Lee said.
After the Warriors took a 68-49 lead on Festus Ezeli’s dunk early in the third quarter, Los Angeles dodged its biggest tumble of the night.
Griffin twisted in the air and landed hard on his right shoulder and head when Ezeli reached in on his arms. After officials reviewed video replays, they called a flagrant 1 foul against Ezeli, which might have been Jackson’s only complaint all game.
”He’s a great actor,” Jackson said. ”I’ve seen those Kia commercials.”
Notes: Del Negro was named Western Conference Coach of the Month of December on Wednesday. Larry Brown (March 1992) is the only other Clippers coach to win the honor. Paul earned Western Conference Player of the Month. … Raiders owner Mark Davis, super middleweight boxing champion Andre Ward, musician Carlos Santana and former NBA player Kenny Smith were among those in attendance.