LOS ANGELES, United States, Apr 1 – The NBA champion Golden State Warriors routed the Charlotte Hornets 137-90 Sunday, bouncing back from a frustrating defeat to regain first place in the Western Conference.
Stephen Curry scored 25 points, Klay Thompson added 24 and the two combined to make 11 three-pointers as the Warriors overcame the second quarter ejection of DeMarcus Cousins for a flagrant foul.
The victory pushed the Warriors one game ahead of Denver atop the West after the Nuggets were upset 95-90 at home by the Washington Wizards.
The Warriors improved to 18-6 this season in games following defeats. They fell 131-130 in overtime at Minnesota on Friday in a clash that left the Warriors fuming over the officiating.
Golden State took it out on the Hornets, seizing a 10-point lead in the first quarter.
They were up 49-38 when Cousins appeared to accidentally hit Willy Hernangomez in the head and was tossed. The Warriors didn’t miss a beat, racing on to a 71-49 halftime lead.
They entered the fourth quarter leading 105-72 and Warriors coach Steve Kerr rested Curry, Thompson, Draymond Green and Kevin Durant for all of the final period.
“It was a great night,” said Kerr. “I was really pleased also with the way the bench unit closed the game in the fourth quarter. It was a really good, complete game for us.”
The Nuggets weren’t the only playoff-bound team to fall to lesser opponents on Sunday, as the Milwaukee Bucks, San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder all lost.
Rookie Trae Young drained a buzzer-beating basket to give the Atlanta Hawks a 136-135 overtime victory over depleted Milwaukee.
The Bucks, with Most Valuable Player candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo resting his sprained ankle, also had Khris Middleton sidelined by a sore left groin while Eric Bledsoe never came off the bench.
Justin Anderson led the Hawks with 24 points and 12 rebounds. John Collins added 13 points and 12 rebounds and Alex Len chipped in another 23.
But it was Young who emerged the hero, corralling a deflected inbounds pass with his left hand and firing the game-winner that was upheld upon video review.
Sterling Brown, who missed a potential game-winner in regulation, put Milwaukee up on a layup with 1.1 seconds left in overtime but his team-leading 27 points weren’t enough.
Nevertheless, the Bucks remained a comfortable three games ahead of the Toronto Raptors atop the NBA Eastern Conference.
“Really proud of the guys how they competed today,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said.
– ‘Appropriate fear’ –
The San Antonio Spurs, assured of a record-equaling 22nd straight playoff spot when the Sacramento Kings lost to the Houston Rockets on Saturday, were beaten by the Kings 113-106.
It was San Antonio’s 14th defeat this season to a team with a losing record.
“Really understanding what appropriate fear is, we haven’t done a good job of that this year,” Spurs guard Patty Mills said. “Knowing we’ve dropped games that we really should have won.”
LaMarcus Aldridge paced the Spurs with 27 points and 18 rebounds, while Buddy Hield with 26 points led seven Kings players in double figures.
San Antonio, who went into the game as league leaders in three-point accuracy, connected on just eight of 27 from beyond the arc.
While the Spurs endured a cold shooting night, coach Gregg Popovich was plenty hot.
Popovich was ejected in the third quarter after attempting to charge official Tyler Ford over an out-of-bounds call. He was slapped with a technical foul and was still shouting when he received a second technical and was tossed.
Oklahoma City, whose playoff spot was also assured with Sacramento’s elimination, were knocked off 106-103 by the Dallas Mavericks.
Star guard Russell Westbrook produced a triple-double of 25 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists. Paul George added 27 points and 11 rebounds and center Steven Adams contributed 20 points and 15 boards for the Thunder.
But Dwight Powell, fed by Jalen Brunson, put the Mavericks up 104-103 by hitting a dunk with 21 seconds remaining and Dallas held on for the win over a Thunder team that has dropped from fourth to eighth in the West with just three wins in their last 10 games.