OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — A tighter defense that gave Orlando trouble all night and another early scoring outburst from Klay Thompson have the Warriors feeling a lot better about their position in the West.
A much-welcomed blowout of the Magic certainly helped, too, especially following three weeks of inconsistencies and a handful of surprising losses.
Thompson scored 21 of his 29 points in the first quarter and the Golden State cruised past the Orlando Magic 122-92 on Thursday night.
“To have a game like that always helps, not confidence-wise but just to kind of try and get back in a rhythm,” said Green, who had nine points and 11 rebounds. “I don’t think this game really just puts us back in a rhythm, but it was a carryover from the last game’s fourth quarter. It was just using that momentum and letting it carry over.”
Stephen Curry added 25 points and nine assists after appearing to injure his right foot in the opening minutes, Andre Iguodala scored 14 and Zaza Pachulia had 10 points and 10 rebounds to help the Warriors improve to an NBA-best 54-14 and clinch their third straight Pacific Division title for the first time in franchise history.
Thompson, who owns the NBA record for most points in one quarter with 37 against Sacramento on Jan. 23, 2015, was almost perfect in the opening period against Orlando. The three-time All-Star made his first five shots beyond the arc and shot 8 of 11 overall while helping the Warriors to an early double-digit lead.
By comparison, the entire Magic team made only nine buckets in the first quarter.
“We were able to get out in transition just from our stops,” Thompson said. “It definitely helps when you make four or five in a row. You feel like every shot’s going to go in.”
It’s the seventh time in his career that Thompson has scored 20 or more in a single quarter and the third time this season. The other two came when Thompson had 23 points in the second and 20 in the third on his way to an NBA season-high 60 points against Indiana on Dec. 5.
“The defense really was kind of setting up some of those shots, too, in transition,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “When you can make stops it solves a lot of problems. We’ve struggled to score the last couple of weeks. Tonight, we broke through.”
Thompson’s fast start began not long after Curry limped off the court and into the Warriors’ locker room early in the first quarter after he stepped on the foot of Elfrid Payton.
The reigning two-time MVP returned a short time later and was greeted by a rousing ovation from the Oracle crowd. Curry then promptly threw an inbounds pass to Thompson for an easy bucket that put the Warriors up by double digits.
“Tweaked his ankle,” Kerr said. “He’s fine.”
Payton and Jeff Green scored 13 points apiece for Orlando.
“When Klay got hot, it was a bit deflating,” Magic center Nikola Vucevic said. “Once they get a lead like that, they’re too good. We were never able to make it a game again.”
Golden State’s win was its second straight following a season-high three-game skid and evened its record at 4-4 since losing Kevin Durant to a knee injury in late-February.
Unlike the other three wins — all decided by eight points or fewer –Kerr’s team had little problem beating Orlando and sending the Magic to their fourth straight loss.
The Warriors led by 36 in the second half, allowing Kerr to sit most of his starters in the fourth quarter, and finished with their most lopsided win since beating Chicago by 31 on Feb. 8.
SIX ON THE FLOOR
It’s not a common occurrence in the NBA, but Orlando was called for a technical foul for having six men on the court in the second quarter. Magic coach Frank Vogel blamed a lack of communication. “We didn’t communicate a sub,” Vogel said.
Magic: The loss marked the 500th regular-season game for Vogel, who has a career record of 274-226. … Orlando has lost eight straight to Golden State.
Warriors: Curry joined current St. John’s coach and former Warriors star Chris Mullin as the only players in franchise history to record 1,000 steals while with the team. Curry has 1,002.
Magic: At Phoenix on Friday night. The Suns are seeking their second straight season sweep of Orlando.
Warriors: Host Milwaukee on Saturday night seeking their third straight win over the Bucks.