After Golden State hung on for a 109-103 win against the Los Angeles Lakers Monday night, it'd be easy to call it a 'statement win.'
Just don't expect Warriors coach Mark Jackson to buy in to that line of thinking. Monday morning he dismissed the notion that his team had something to prove and kept that stance following the team's first win against the Lakers in his tenure.
"We've played 72 games and the survey says that we are the better basketball team," said Jackson, in reference to the standings. "That can't be debated -- through 72 games."
It's still a win Warriors fans were desperate to see with the team having lost 18 of its last 19 against the Lakers.
The day began with Stephen Curry officially listed as questionable with a sprained ankle, but after he went through pregame warmups, he was deemed fit for action. If there were any lingering effects from the injury, they didn't show.
Curry finished with 25 points and 10 assists in 43 minutes and was one of three Warriors who scored at least 20 points. David Lee (23 points, 12 rebounds), Klay Thompson (22 points) and Jarrett Jack (19 points) also had big games as Golden State (41-31) extended its lead over Houston to a full game for the No. 6 spot in the Western Conference standings with ten games left.
The process which allowed Curry to play was relatively simple, but wasn't one the Warriors took lightly. Both Jackson and general manager Bob Myers were in the room when Curry relayed he felt good to go.
"Just being honest with (Jackson) and telling how I felt," Curry said. "Went out and did my warm up and wasn't compensating at all. I was sore, but it wasn't anything I had to baby while I was out there."
Lakers star Kobe Bryant did his best to keep L.A. in game. He scored 23 of his game-high 36 points in the second half as the Lakers cut a 25-point Warriors lead to just six in the final minute.
"They have a couple guys over there that have had a lot of sucess and understand the game was not over," Jackson said. "We will get better at it, but at the end of the day, we made the right plays. Enough plays to get out of there with a victory."
Bryant's big second half followed a bizzare end to the first.
With seven-tenths of a second left in the second quarter, Curry lobbed in a pass from under the basket to Andrew Bogut, who tipped it in to give Golden State a 63-40 halftime advantage. Forward Paul Gasol was on the floor at the time, but it was Bryant trying to defend Bogut -- a clear mismatch for the much shorter Bryant in that situation.
The lob wasn't the orignal play call, but when Jackson saw Bryant on Bogut, he told him to stand under the hoop and had Curry get it to him.
"There's going to come a point where I don't have to say a word," Jackson said. "Where they'll read that, recognize it and capitalize."
The play took just two-tenths off the clock and Bryant, clearly disgusted, was halfway down the tunnel before the Lakers inbounded the ball.
Curry played 11 minutes in the first quarter, but returned to the locker room immediately after leaving the game with the Warriors up 28-14. After spending some time on a stationary bike, Curry re-entered with 7:54 left in the second quarter and the Warriors leading 39-22.
Coupled with Utah's 107-91 win against Philadelphia on Monday, the Lakers' lead over the Jazz for the No. 8 spot shrunk to one game.
Steve Nash scored 21 points for Los Angeles and Dwight Howard added 11 points and 15 rebounds. The Lakers' starting lineup of Bryant, Nash, Howard, Gasol and Metta World Peace fell to 0-7 on the season.
Next up -- Sacramento, Wednesday
Golden State will look to even the series with the Kings Wednesday at Oracle Arena. Sacramento took the first two games of the season series before Golden State won 87-83 at home on March 6.
No Shaving Allowed
Even if the San Jose Sharks miss the playoffs, the Bay Area won't be devoid of a bearded team.
In an act of solidarity, the Warriors players have agreed not to shave the rest of the regular season.
"Just something to show our comraderie," said Andrew Bogut, who came up with the idea. "We a couple pretty boys, so we wanted to kind of see how much we can buy into this thing."
With just over three weeks left in the season, Bogut is excited about the possibilty of a rough look come season's end.
And if the team continues to play winning basketball down the stretch, do the beards live into the postseason?
"It'll have to be a conversation," Bogut said. "Some of the wives aren't too happy about it, but it's not an eternity."