OAKLAND (AP) — After four lopsided wins to open the season, the Golden State Warriors were happy to find themselves in a nail-biter for a change.
It sure helps that they have the MVP on their side.
Stephen Curry scored 31 points, including the go-ahead 3-pointer with just over a minute to go that led the defending champion Warriors to their fifth straight win to open the season, 112-108 over the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night.
“It was good for us to feel a little bit of adversity against a good team like that,” Curry said. “We’re not going to blow everybody out this year. We answered the bell.”
The Warriors had outscored their opponents by a record 100 points in the first four games but fell behind by 10 in the fourth quarter to the Clippers. Harrison Barnes then scored 10 of his 17 points during the 16-2 spurt with Golden State’s small-ball lineup to turn the tide.
Chris Paul scored 24 points and Blake Griffin added 23 for the Clippers, who also had won their first four games of the season to give extra meaning to this early season matchup.
“We had a lot of game-plan mistakes throughout the game,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “That’s the difference right now between us and them, them being together and them executing.”
An offseason war of words that has been waged between Rivers and several Warriors about what role luck played in their championship last season only added to the drama.
Barnes hit a pair of 3-pointers to start the spurt. Curry then made his first two baskets of the second half — both from long range — to give the Warriors the lead. He raised his arms to the crowd after a 27-footer made it 103-99.
The Clippers went ahead 106-105 when DeAndre Jordan made one of two free throws with 1:16 to play. Curry answered with his seventh 3-pointer to give the Warriors the lead for good as they became the fifth team to start consecutive seasons with five straight wins.
“When we really needed him most, he stepped up for us and he made huge plays shooting deep 3s with people draped all over him,” interim coach Luke Walton said. “He’s a winner. He showed why he’s MVP of the league.”
Both Paul and Curry dealt with early foul trouble, with Curry going to the bench with two fouls less than three minutes into the game and Paul being forced to sit early in the third quarter with his fourth.
Both teams actually rallied without their star point guards, with Golden State building a 17-point lead early in the second quarter and the Clippers rallying to the lead with Paul on the bench in the third.
Clippers: The Clippers have started 5-0 just once in their history, in 1985-86. ... Jordan shot 5 of 6 and is 19 for 23 from the floor this season.
Warriors: Curry made a 3 on Golden State’s opening possession to tie Dennis Scott for the fourth-longest streak of making at least one 3-pointer at 78 games. ... C Andrew Bogut missed his fourth straight game with a concussion.
Curry has scored 179 points, the most through five games since Michael Jordan had 182 in 1991-92. Jordan is the only player in the past 35 years to score more in the first five games, having topped Curry’s mark three times.
Paul left in the final seconds with a strained right groin. Rivers said he did not believe the injury was serious but he didn’t want to take any risks. Paul tried to sneak back on the court before Rivers said he had to drag him back to the bench.
“You could see he was not happy,” Rivers said. “But it’s too early in the season for that.”
The highlight of the first half came when Warriors center Festus Ezeli blocked a dunk attempt from Griffin to excite the crowd. Ezeli was late on a switch but still managed to stop one of the NBA’s most feared dunkers.
“I’ve seen a lot of top 10 countdowns where that exact same play happened and it didn’t end well for the guy under the basket,” Ezeli said. “I’m just glad I got the block.”
Clippers: Host Houston on Saturday.
Warriors: Host Denver on Friday.