January 19th 2022
SAN FRANCISCO — In case there was any doubt, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson quickly quieted whatever concerns existed following a 1-3 road trip and a stretch of subpar play that dated back even further.
Yes, the Splash Brothers are back.
Curry and Thompson had shared the court three times since Thompson’s long-awaited return, but finally, Tuesday night against the Pistons, they combined to make tidal waves reminiscent of past championship runs.
With early explosions from both Splash Brothers, the Warriors went up by as many as 34 points and led for all but the initial seconds of a 102-86 win over the Detroit Pistons, a much-needed bounce-back performance to start a seven-game home stand.
Curry went on a mini-flurry, then Thompson got hot. They combined for 39 points and took over the game in a fashion that was certainly familiar to Warriors fans but didn’t quite exist in their first game back together.
Thompson, still restricted to about 24 minutes per game, re-entered for the final 6:24 of the first half with the Warriors already up 20 and scored 12 of their final 20 points of the half, extending their lead to 66-38 with a corner 3 — right after 28-footer from Curry — as the clock ticked toward intermission. When he exited for the final time with an 91-73 lead and 4:43 to play, Thompson had played 22 minutes and scored a game-high 21 points.
For the first time since before Christmas — nine games — Curry shot better than 50% from the field. It was clear he was on after his first two 3s, which both fell true only one possession apart midway through the first quarter. He needed only 29 minutes and 11 shots to finish with 18 points.
Last Sunday, in Thompson’s first game back, the duo combined for 45, but it came on a less-than-efficient 17-of-39 (43.5%) from the field. Against Detroit, they made half of their 24 attempts from the field and 7 of 15 from distance.
Another important first: Andrew Wiggins found his groove as the third option alongside Thompson and Curry. After being limited to 13, 16 and 12 points in the three previous games he played with Thompson, Wiggins reasserted himself with 19 points in 28 minutes.
Curry. Thompson. Wiggins. That’s a trio the Warriors are happy to see occupy the top three spots in the scoring column. They combined for 58 points before checking out for good — Curry and Wiggins in the third quarter, Thompson after one final run during garbage time — the lead and a bounce-back win safely in hand.
By the second of Curry’s 3s, just over 8 minutes into the game, the Warriors had already built a double-digit lead. It only got larger from there.
The Warriors needed a convincing win like this one — a slump buster in more ways than one — after losing five of their previous seven games, including three of four on their past road trip. Their offensive rating slipped from the top 3 in the league to middle of the pack, and they lost their place atop the Western Conference (2.5 games behind the Phoenix Suns after the win).
“It’s time to get back on track,” Wiggins said before tipoff. “We let some games slip from us. We went through a little rough patch. But now it’s trying to get back on track. No better place to do it than at home.”
Beyond the reemergence of the Warriors’ famed shooting duo, another tenet of Golden State basketball that had recently gone missing helped manifest Wiggins’ pregame comments into a final score.
The Warriors’ relentless defense held the Pistons to 35.3% from the field — 26.5% from 3 — and forced 16 turnovers (with 12 steals).
Consider the competition, but take note that the Warriors righted their defensive struggles without their best defensive player, Draymond Green, who will miss at least the remainder of the home stand with lower back problems.
Without Green out of the lineup, Kerr gave the starting nod to 19-year-old rookie Jonathan Kuminga, the third start of his career and the first time he started alongside Curry and Thompson.
Kerr said he wanted to get a look at the rookie with the rest of the normal starting five — a possible sign of how Kerr eventually envisions his use — but didn’t get much of an opportunity, at least until the second half.
Kuminga eventually finished with a 12-point, 10-rebound double-double, splashing an early 3 and matching up against Cade Cunningham, who went six selections prior to him in the past draft, but picked up two fouls in the first 4 minutes and headed to the bench as the Warriors’ first substitution, picking up most of his minutes with the second unit after halftime.