OAKLAND (AP) — Stephen Curry and the dominant Warriors aren’t just beating teams anymore, they’re throwing staggering knockout punches against the NBA’s best — make that second-best.
In a span of eight days, Golden State has 30-point wins over Cleveland, Chicago and San Antonio.
Curry scored 37 points and hit six 3-pointers in three scintillating quarters Monday night, and the reigning champions showed they still rule the West by routing the Spurs 120-90.
“No moment’s too big, obviously,” Curry said. “We know this is just another regular-season game, but there was some hype around it. Every time we have an opportunity to prove who we are and take another step in the journey, we’re ready for it. It wasn’t always that way. This core has been together for a while and understands how to mentally prepare for nights like this.”
The NBA MVP had 15 points in the opening quarter, 18 in the third and shot 12 for 20 in Golden State’s 39th straight home win at raucous Oracle Arena, where a star-studded sellout crowd saw a lopsided showdown in what was billed as a potential Western Conference finals preview.
The Warriors (41-4) snapped a 13-game winning streak by the Spurs (38-7), off to the best start in franchise history but without Tim Duncan this time. The teams had the highest combined winning percentage in NBA history for opponents meeting at least 40 games into the season.
Curry galloped down the court and pounded his chest after his second straight 3-pointer and 10th consecutive point put Golden State up 76-56 with 7:55 to go in the third. It was his 1,400th career 3 and he became the 26th player in NBA history to reach that mark.
Chants of “M-V-P!” came from every corner of the arena as Curry did it all for his highest-scoring total in 17 games against San Antonio — knocking down 3s from the baseline and hitting from 30 feet well beyond the arc. Coming off his second triple-double of the season when he banked in a half-court shot Friday against Indiana, the dynamic point guard had three steals early in the game to set the defensive tone. And the Warriors didn’t relent after building a 62-47 halftime lead.
All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard scored 16 points for the sloppy Spurs, with Harrison Barnes and Andre Iguodala guarding him early. The Spurs lacked the presence of Duncan, out because of soreness in his right knee.
“They outplayed us in every single aspect of the game,” Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said. “Aggression was one.”
Even coach Steve Kerr was in disbelief watching his current team thoroughly dismantle his old one on both ends — not to mention his mentor and good friend, Gregg Popovich. Kerr coached his second game back following a long leave of absence dating to Oct. 1 because of complications following two back operations.
Popovich understood the hype for one of the most anticipated regular-season matchups in recent memory.
“Why not? It’s the two teams with the best record, playing it up would seem to be logical to me,” he said. “We feel different going against a team that’s the best team in the league. I get butterflies in my gut and excited about the game, and all that sort of thing. I don’t feel like that every night.”
Yet the Spurs are still right behind in the standings despite Golden State’s NBA-record 24-0 start, so the Warriors wanted nothing more than to send a message that they plan to win another championship.
First, the Warriors are pursuing the Chicago Bulls’ NBA record of 44 straight regular-season home wins from March 30, 1995 to April 4, 1996. They improved to 21-0 this season.
“It was like men and boys out there tonight,” Popovich said.
FRIENDS FACE OFF
It’s not always fun coaching against a friend. Ask Popovich.
Seeing Kerr is always extra special, and they talked both Saturday and Sunday nights ahead of this matchup.
“I’ve got a lot of close friends,” Popovich said. “The closer you are to one of these guys, you win and you actually to some degree feel a little bit badly for your opponent, which sounds really unmanly in the macho world that we live in. If you lose, it doesn’t hurt so much like a normal loss.”
Kerr disagrees, saying, “I love Pop, that’s my guy, but I don’t feel that bad right now.”
Ginobili stopped by Golden State’s bench after a first-quarter timeout to give ex-teammate Kerr a hug and pat on the back.
Popovich was thrilled to see Kerr — who won two titles with the Spurs — back coaching.
“Steve’s a different animal. He exudes a lot of confidence and he instills it,” Popovich said. “A lot of people can’t do that. There’s no formula for it, but having Steve back is very, very, very significant for that club and that group of guys.”
Spurs: San Antonio committed a season-high 26 turnovers. ... The Spurs had won 23 of the previous 26 at Oracle and 54 of 62 overall in the series dating to April 4, 1998. ... David West had 12 points and five rebounds while starting in Duncan’s place.
Warriors: Curry has 30-plus points in seven of his last nine games. ... Golden State is 25-2 vs. the West and has won 35 in a row at home against Western Conference teams in the regular season. ... Rap mogul Jay-Z sat courtside eight seats away from Warriors owner Joe Lacob, and rapper Drake also was in attendance.