The Warriors looked exactly like a team playing a back end of a back-to-back for much of the first half Monday against the Hawks. They were a step slow, clanging jumpers, and getting torched by Trae Young.
Then Steph happened. Stephen Curry erupted for 50 points, 10 assists, seven rebounds and nine 3’s to drag the Warriors (9-1) to a 127-113 victory over Atlanta (4-7).
And Curry did it in vintage style, running amok in the third quarter to put the game out of reach. He hit some unconscious shots, but also capitalized on lackluster Hawks defense. He found himself open coming off simple flare screens in the fourth quarter when he already had 40.
It looked like the game was headed for a straight two-on-two contest between Young and Curry, but the Warriors defense picked up enough to slow down Young in the second half. He would finish with 28, but was easily outpaced by Curry.
It’s been a noticeable trend that the Warriors do most of their damage once Andrew Wiggins heads to the bench. Monday it was in the third quarter when Curry returned to the court and replaced Wiggins with 3:38 left and a precarious 87-82 lead.
When the quarter ended it was 102-85, and Golden State never looked back. Wiggins’ line doesn’t look awful on first glance – 13 points on 5-of-12 – but there’s no denying when he comes out and it’s Curry, Draymond Green and a bunch of shooters, the Warriors immediately make a run.
The two bench guys were a combined plus-39 and once again energized the Warriors. This is the third straight game Payton has been better than a plus-20 in the box score.
It’s gotten to the point that Payton now plays the most minutes off the bench of any Warriors sub.
Bjelica has been shooting the lights out, now topping 55 percent from deep on the season, but he also has been putting the ball on the ground and getting to the rim.
In fact, his teammates and coaching staff have been telling him to let it fly from deep more often. And Bjelica being a constant perimeter threat has allowed Curry to roam semi-free on the outside, which has let Payton show off his new role: screener and lob threat.
Kerr has talked about how Payton and Bjelica have essentially switched positions on offense and how that plays right into each of their skills.
Payton’s play actually gives the most optimism for James Wiseman when the big man returns. If the 6-foot-3 wing can be a screener and catch lobs with ease, can you imagine what the athletic 7-footer could do?
And that’s what makes you think that this team are legitimate contenders right now.
Yes, like Andre Iguodala pointed out a couple games ago, Golden State has played an easy schedule, and yes, they’re still figuring things out.
But you have to take notice of their impressive wins, including Monday, their fifth-straight by double-figures. They not only have the best record in the NBA, but also the best point differential.
This team just wanted to be decent while they waited for Klay Thompson and Wiseman – it turns out they might be great.
The Warriors get a needed off day Tuesday before taking on the Minnesota Timberwolves (3-6) Wednesday. The T-Wolves just blew an overtime game to the Memphis Grizzlies, and Karl Anthony-Towns and company will be looking to snap a five-game losing skid.
Curry became just the third Warriors player to record 50 points and 10 or more assists in a game, joining Wilt Chamberlain and Rick Barry. He also sits behind those two for most 50-point games in their Warriors career. … Mike Brown joined Kenny Atkinson off the sidelines Monday as the assistant coach was feeling under the weather, but the team made a point in clarifying that it was non-Covid related.