SAN FRANCISCO — A sluggish Saturday loss called for a re-invigorating, comfortable win for the Golden State Warriors on Monday.
A 126-95 win on Saturday at Chase Center over an Orlando Magic team flirting with last place in the Eastern Conference gave Stephen Curry and the Warriors a little breather following a tough 1-2 skid against the first-place Phoenix Suns and scrappy San Antonio Spurs. The Warriors move to 20-4, tied with the Suns for first in the Western Conference.
The struggling Portland Trailblazers visiting on Wednesday could provide a nice cushion for the Warriors heading into a tough road trip with a pair of back-to-backs on the horizon.
The Warriors took advantage of a Magic team with a 112.1 defensive rating on the road ranked 24th worst of the 30 NBA teams and 111.4 rating overall. Andrew Wiggins drained a career-high eight three pointers — breaking a previous high of seven threes made against the Sacramento Kings in January of last year.
“Yeah, I’m in a groove,” Wiggins said. “I love my teammates. I love winning.”
Wiggins went 8-of-10 from three on the night. In 30 minutes, Wiggins scored 28 points and upped his three-point average to 42%, a career high where his previous was 38% last season with the Warriors and up significantly from the 33% three-point average he held in five seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
What’s helped Wiggins three-point efficiency tick up? A simplified role that doesn’t require Wiggins to create on the ball.
“The biggest thing I’m seeing form Andrew is that he’s just catching and shooting,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said. “He’s always been a pretty good 3-point shooter, but maybe more a little bit off the dribble. And the thing is h’s gotten better with us when he’s open, he’s just catching and shooting.”
A task made easier by his teammates, Wiggins said.
“I’m just getting my shots up,” he said. “On this team you play with someone like Steph and Draymond, they’re going to get you open shots and extra looks. In my career, this is the most open looks I’ve gotten.”
Curry said he can see the Warriors system shaping Wiggins’ confidence.
“I think it’s a combination of the work he’s put in,” Curry said. “You have a confidence that comes with that. He’ can shoot the ball and is an amazing scorer when he has his mind made up about what he does when he gets the ball where they’re shooting and driving, good things happen.
Curry set the tone early with an easy 19-point half and on four three-pointers made on five attempt — including a buzzer-beater from the half-court logo to end the first quarter. Chasing Ray Allen’s all-time three-point record, Curry finished the night with seven made total on a 31-point night, now needing 16 three-pointers to break Allen’s record of 2,973.
While he isn’t counting down to the record after every three-point swish in-game, the record is on Curry’s mind. He knows now that with 15 made threes on Wednesday against Portland he would not only tie Allen’s all-time record, but break teammate Klay Thompson’s 14 three-point game against the Chicago Bulls in 2018 that set a single-game record.
A smirk crept across Curry’s face when asked if it’s possible he’d chase those 15 shots.
“Anything is possible,” Curry said. “That’s funny, because I know what that means with Klay’s record. So we will see.
“If you’ve seen the way I play, especially recently, I am not shy about shooting the ball. The game will dictate what that will look like. I’m not coming out with that as a true goal of how I play. But crazier things have happened.”
Kerr said he wouldn’t be surprised to see Curry go for the double record.
“He’s got the greatest combination of humility and arrogance I’ve ever seen, it’s a beautiful, perfect combination for a star athlete,” Kerr said. “The arrogance of knowing he’s the best player on the floor and the humility that makes everyone around him be on his team. It’s a wonderful combination.”
As a team, the Warriors shot a season-high 50% from three with 20 three pointers made, one short of their season-high 21 made against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Oct. 30. Nemanja Bjelica shot 2-of-3 from beyond the arc. Jordan Poole had a 12 point game with a season-high seven-assist and three-pointers made.
The win extended the Warriors win streak against the Magic to nine games and their 20-4 record marks their best start since the 2016-17 season, when they won 24 straight.