OAKLAND, Calif. — The Golden State Warriors walked out of Oracle Arena with a smile Thursday night even though they were not happy with their performance.
Having lost recent home games to the Charlotte Bobcats and Cleveland Cavaliers, the Warriors now realize: At this late juncture of the playoff race, all that matters is winning.
“Obviously you’d like it to be prettier,” Warriors star guard Stephen Curry said after his club’s hard-fought, 115-110 victory over the lowly Milwaukee Bucks. “But it’s nice when you can learn these lessons and win.”
Curry and backcourt mate Klay Thompson combined for 60 points, including 22 in a tense fourth quarter, and the Warriors won for the eighth time in their last 10 games to secure their hold on the sixth spot in the Western Conference playoff race.
Despite scoring 11 of the game’s first 14 points and facing the league’s losingest team, it wasn’t easy. The Warriors led just 89-87 with 8:24 to play before Curry and Thompson went to work.
The guards each hit 3-pointers in an 8-3 burst that reopened a seven-point advantage, and Curry added a spectacular three-point play with 3:59 remaining to increase the advantage to 104-94.
“Once you draw contact, you just try to find the rim,” Curry said of his highlight-reel three-point play. “Obviously there was a lot of luck involved.”
Led by their own high-scoring guards, Brandon Knight and Ramon Sessions, the Bucks still had a chance at 108-105 after a three-point play by forward Ersan Ilyasova with 56.2 seconds left.
Thompson then struck from long distance again, burying a critical 3-pointer with 38.3 seconds to go, doubling the margin and giving the Warriors the breathing room they would need to hold on.
Golden State (44-26) won on a night when it missed 17 of its first 20 3-point attempts, but the Warriors improved to 18 games over .500 for the first time since 1994.
“Bad shooting or good shooting,” Thompson said, “it doesn’t matter as long as you win.”
Curry had 31 points and Thompson 29. Both hit three 3-pointers, although it took Thompson 11 attempts to get his.
Power forward David Lee contributed 22 points and 12 rebounds to the win, which came despite allowing the Bucks to shoot 48.8 percent from the field. Milwaukee also got to the free-throw line 39 times, hitting 29. Golden State made 21 of 25 foul shots.
“As a coach, you are not going to be satisfied with giving up 35 points in the fourth quarter, but I am not going to nitpick,” Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. “The bottom line is we made progress because we beat two teams that we are supposed to beat in our building (including Tuesday’s win over the Orlando Magic).”
Added Lee, “I don’t mean to be negative, but are we thrilled with the way we played? No.”
Thanks to two 3-pointers by reserve guard Jordan Crawford bridging the third and fourth quarters, the Warriors went up 87-77 in the second minute of the final period. Golden State was just 3-for-20 on 3s before Crawford’s pair.
However, the Bucks, coming off an overtime loss at Portland to begin a four-game Western swing, would not go away. Reserve center John Henson scored six consecutive Milwaukee points, and Sessions nailed a jumper, pulling the visitors within 89-87 with still 8:24 to play.
Curry countered with a 3, and Golden State, completing its first season-series sweep of the Bucks since 2008, managed to keep Milwaukee at arm’s length the rest of the way.
“I thought my guys played a very competitive game,” Bucks coach Larry Drew said. “We put ourselves in a great position once again. We just couldn’t make the plays down the stretch.”
Knight had 27 points and Sessions 18 for the Bucks, who lost starting guard Nate Wolters to a broken left hand in the second quarter.
Henson chipped in with 13 points as seven Bucks, including all four backups who saw playing time, scored in double figures.
The Bucks (13-56) lost for the ninth time in 10 games.
“It’s been a long road,” Sessions said. “We are a young team and the guys are learning and competing despite our record. Our guys continue to come out and play hard, and you can’t ask for more than that.”
NOTES: Warriors PG Stephen Curry had 11 assists to go with his 31 points. The 30/10 game was his league-leading seventh of the season. … The Warriors won for the 11th consecutive time when scoring at least 100 points, and the Bucks lost their 11th straight when giving up triple digits. … Warriors C Andrew Bogut was a game-time decision because of a sore left ankle. He declared himself healthy in time to start against his former team, then contributed eight points and 12 rebounds to the win. … The Bucks’ bench outscored Golden State’s reserves 53-25. … The Bucks fell to 2-25 against Western Conference teams. … SG Nate Wolters (broken left hand) wasn’t the only Buck to suffer an injury in the game. Reserve PF Jeff Adrien took three stitches over his left eye in the second quarter. He was able to return to the game and totaled 11 points.
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