SAN FRANCISCO – Even with Stephen Curry back and fully available Sunday, the Golden State Warriors proved they can win without their superstar.
Andrew Wiggins, Jordan Poole and the rest of the Warriors’ supporting role stole the show for the second game in a row in a 119-104 victory over the Toronto Raptors, which rarely came closer than double-digit, despite an uncharacteristic off night of their superstar in his return to court.
“Every team’s game plan is to try to slow down Steph,” coach Steve Kerr said afterwards. “The scoring balance means teams can not throw everything after Steph. That was what happened last year. We saw that. The teams threw everything they had after Steph. It continues this year, but we have more overall shooting in “… Just the overall distance means that if teams have to throw the kitchen sink after Steph, they’ll pay.”
After missing Friday with a sore hip, Curry returned to the starting lineup Sunday with Draymond Green, but stepped largely aside and let Wiggins and Poole go to work.
After the two combined for 59 points Friday in Detroit, they were even more effective on their way to 65 overall Sunday. Poole led all-goal scorers and set a season-high for a second game in a row with 33 points on 10-of-13 shots, including 8-of-11 from beyond the arc, while Wiggins was aggressive as always with 12 teams on 20 attempts from the field and 6-by-8 from deep. Poole’s 33 points secured his first 30-point performance in a row in his career.
The Warriors were deadly from the depths, even on an off-night of the NBA’s most productive 3-point shooting game. They made 22 out of 45 attempts from beyond the arc, while Curry only shot 1-of-6 from deep and 2-of-10 overall. In addition to Poole and Wiggins, Otto Porter Jr. added. 15 points with five 3-pointers on nine attempts.
Curry only contributed 12 in the scoring column, but stood straight with Green for a team-high eight assists. Most of his points came on the foul line as he tumbled into an off-night where he shot the ball.
“He’s attracting so much attention, so anytime we can get a couple of guys – especially Wiggs and Jordan – in the starting lineup, get those guys started early, they want some openings,” Kerr said. “And I thought both Andrew and Jordan took advantage of those openings early on. Wiggs, the same as Jordan… I really think he’s starting to get into a grove.”
Whether they are on the field or not, the Warriors are proving they do not have to rely on Curry and Green to win games this season. Golden State went 2-7 in games that Curry did not play last season and had 3-7 when he played but scored 20 or fewer.
Thanks to Curry’s red-hot start to the season, Golden State has not had many opportunities to show what it can do without him.
As the NBA’s leading goal scorer coming in on Sunday, Curry had only been held to 20 or fewer three times before his 12-point show against the Raptors. Still, in the small sample size, the Warriors now have 4-0 when Curry is either kept in check or does not fit.
Wiggins joined his first four attempts from the field in a preview of the upcoming stuff. He scored 11 straight points after Poole scored the Warriors’ first five of the game as Golden State drove out to a 16-5 lead.
The Warriors led from start to finish for the second time this season.
Green and Kevon Looney acted as vacuum cleaners in the paint. By the halfway point of the third quarter, Looney had already amassed enough rebounds to secure his fourth double-digit game in his last seven shows. Green finished with a team-high 14 boards, to lead a 47-46 advantage on the glass.
Afterwards, Kerr called Green “the best defender in the world.”
Asked about his reaction, Green offered a quick response: “I agree.”
Golden State also received a surprising contribution from Chris Chiozza, who celebrated his 26th birthday on Sunday. As the first player off the bench, replacing Gary Payton II (out; tender hernia), Chiozza secured a season-high eight points at the break and finished with 11 in 19 minutes.
When he returned to the locker room, he received an ovation from his teammates.