OAKLAND, Calif. — The West Conference’s second-winningest team against Eastern Conference competition hosts the second-losingest club in the East on Thursday night when the Golden State Warriors take on the Orlando Magic.
The Warriors improved their record to 22-5 against Eastern teams this season with a hard-fought, 106-104 home win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday night.
Golden State rallied from an 11-point deficit to start the fourth quarter to snap a three-game losing streak.
The game was supposed to be a bit of a breather for the Warriors, who were coming off a grueling stretch in which they played eight games in eight different cities, three times traveling over multiple time zones between games.
Instead, Golden State had to call upon all available energy and tighten the defensive screws in the fourth quarter in order to run its home record against Eastern foes to 11-1.
“When you’re in a rut, it’s never easy,” noted Warriors coach Steve Kerr, whose team was beginning a season-ending stretch run that features 11 of 16 games at home. “You don’t lose five of seven and then just all of a sudden show up and blow a team out. You have to dig your way out of it.”
Stephen Curry, celebrating his 29th birthday, led the way offensively with 12 fourth-quarter points and 29 in all. But even his relatively poor shooting continued — he’d been just 4-for-17 until connecting on 4 of 6 in the late comeback.
Curry shot 8 of 15, including 7 of 13 from 3-point range, when the Warriors won easily at Orlando 118-98 in January. But the Warriors had star forward Kevin Durant then. He’s missed the last seven games with a strained knee, and Golden State has gone just 3-4 in those games.
Alas, the Magic would take a 3-4 mark these days. They have only three wins to show for their last 11 games.
Orlando opened a three-game Western swing with a 120-115 loss at Sacramento on Monday night. It has lost seven of 10 since trading Serge Ibaka to Toronto for Terrence Ross and a first-round draft pick.
The Magic had hoped adding the high-scoring Raptors reserve would help ignite a dormant offense that ranks 29th in the NBA in scoring (99.9), 27th in field goal percentage (44.1) and 29th in 3-point percentage (32.5).
It hasn’t worked. Ross has had 0-for-5, 2-for-10, 3-for-10 and 4-for-17 outings among his 10 games for the Magic, and his field goal percentage (38.6) is well below what he had accumulated in Toronto (44.1).
“It’s different; it’s a new set-up from how it was in Toronto,” Ross told reporters Wednesday at practice in San Francisco. “I’m learning it and adjusting to it.”
Ross took a step in a positive direction by hitting a pair of 3-pointers against Sacramento. He’d missed his previous eight over two games.
Offense wasn’t a problem against the Kings. The 115 points equaled Orlando’s seventh-most this season. The Magic had been unbeaten the previous eight times they’d scored that many points in a game this season.