LOS ANGELES (AP) — A year ago, Stephen Curry was hurting and the Golden State Warriors were locked into the No. 2 seed in the West.
How things have changed.
Curry is feeling good and Golden State got closer to clinching the No. 1 seed with a 108-90 victory over the also-ran Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night.
“Much more comfortable this year,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “This year I think it’s been good for us to have to compete for the one-seed.”
With four regular-season games remaining, the Warriors own the best record in the West (54-24) and have a two-game lead over idle second-place Denver. The defending NBA champions also hold the tiebreaker over the Nuggets in the race for the top seed.
“They looked like they’re turning on playoff mode,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said. “They came in that first quarter and were ready to go.”
DeMarcus Cousins had 21 points and 10 rebounds, and Kevin Durant added 15 points, eight assists and six rebounds. Curry finished a quiet night with seven points on 3-of-14 shooting and 10 rebounds. Curry and fellow Splash Brother Klay Thompson were a combined 4 of 16 from 3-point range.
“Their whole team is missing so it’s pretty easy for us to get into a rhythm,” Durant said. “They’re playing a lot of young players, inexperienced players. We took advantage of that.”
Johnathan Williams led the Lakers with 17 points and a career-high 13 rebounds off the bench. JaVale McGee had 13 boards to help the Lakers outrebound Golden State 62-51.
“They came out with championship mentality and smacked us in the mouth to start the game,” Williams said.
The Warriors set the tone in the first quarter when they shot 64% from the floor and led by 27 points. They made 7 of 12 3-pointers.
The Lakers missed all 10 of their 3-point attempts in the first. Their 12 points were a season low for any quarter.
“The first quarter was awful for us,” Walton said. “From that point on, our guys engaged and gave what they had. We saw some good performances from guys who are getting opportunities.”
Los Angeles outscored Golden State 30-21 in the second when its shooting improved to 32% from the field, but still trailed 60-42 at halftime.
Quinn Cook had 12 of his 18 points in the second for the Warriors, who won their third in a row and fifth in six games.
“We’re getting hot at the right time,” Cook said. “Guys want to finish the season off the right way.”
Draymond Green, Thompson, Durant, Cousins and Curry dominated the third, outscoring the Lakers by 10 points to take a 94-66 lead into the fourth. Damion Lee’s 3-pointer gave Golden State its largest lead of 34 points.
The fourth quarter was nothing more than a nationally televised audition among the Lakers’ bench for future jobs with team owner Jeanie Buss leaving early. The Warriors also let their reserves finish it off.
Warriors: They won the season series, 3-1. … They’ve won 10 of 11 against the Lakers, including the last five in LA. … G/F Andre Iguodala (left toe soreness) sat out. … C Andrew Bogut and G Shaun Livingston rested on the front end of a back-to-back set. … Thompson (20,252) moved past Wilt Chamberlain (20,231) into eighth on the team’s all-time minutes list.
Lakers: F Kyle Kuzma (left foot peroneal tendinitis) missed his third straight game. Walton said it’s not been decided whether Kuzma will sit out the last three games of the season. … Already shut down for the season is LeBron James, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and Brandon Ingram. … James wore a black T-shirt with the likeness of late rapper Nipsey Hussle under his suit jacket.
During a timeout, James and Durant chatted briefly, sparking interest on social media about what they might have been saying.
“Just laughing and joking and catching up,” Durant said. “Everybody’s so interested, especially in LeBron. So whoever he talks to, the lip readers are going to try to figure it out. You guys are just infatuated with that whole thing.”
Lakers reserve guard Alex Caruso got the crowd’s attention with a dunk to end the second quarter. Rondo’s 3-pointer missed and Caruso got the rebound and slammed it. At 6-foot-5, he was one of the shorter players on the court. He finished with nine points, just over his 7.5-point average in 22 games this season.
Warriors: Host Cleveland on Friday in the Warriors’ last back-to-back of the regular season.
Lakers: They’re the visiting team against the Clippers on Friday.
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