OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Draymond Green wants the Golden State Warriors to be rolling into the playoffs again this spring.
Steve Kerr is looking for ways to spark the defending NBA champions to make sure that happens, to bring the high-flying Warriors back to playing superb basketball on both ends.
He returned from a Hawaiian family getaway over the All-Star break and changed starting centers. It worked well enough for him to stick with JaVale McGee over Zaza Pachulia for another night.
Stephen Curry swished a beautiful buzzer-beater from way back early and hit another timely 3-pointer late on the way to scoring 44 points, and the Warriors held off the Los Angeles Clippers 134-127 on Thursday night.
“We’re a championship team. We’re not about to sit here and act like we’re this battered team that had a horrible season and we’re looking for any glimmer of hope,” Green said. “I understand we haven’t been as great as most people expect. We’re still a damn good basketball team so we don’t need no ‘but it’s a step in the right direction.’ You may get that out of someone but I don’t really roll like that.”
Kevin Durant had 21 points and eight assists, Klay Thompson added 19 points, and Green contributed 13 points, seven rebounds, six assists and two steals.
“It takes a full effort. It’s not easy to win an NBA game, it’s really not,” Kerr said. “It takes the full 48. We’re not there yet.”
Curry shot 14 for 19, including 8 of 11 from deep, and made all eight of his free throws in his third 40-point game of the season. Curry also had 10 assists, six rebounds and two steals.
The buzzer-beater was sweet, giving Golden State “a good vibe.”
“Obviously I feel every one I take has a chance to go in,” he said. “Not really worrying about shooting percentages, just chuck it and see what happens.”
Kerr challenged his superstar roster to begin games better on the defensive end, which the Warriors did. Then the Clippers nearly came back with a surge down the stretch in what became an entertaining back-and-forth in the closing minutes.
Golden State led 104-93 on David West’s two free throws with 11:31 to play before a 9-0 Clippers run cut it to two.
Curry let it fly from nearly halfcourt to end the first quarter, both his furthest 3 of the season and first as time expired. Those have been his signature shots in recent seasons, so the sellout crowd went crazy.
The two-time NBA MVP made another 3 just before halftime, then Los Angeles’ Danilo Gallinari drained a 47-footer at the buzzer to get the Clippers within 70-58 at the break.
“Steph was incredible as he always is,” Clippers guard Austin Rivers said.
Tobias Harris scored 22 points, Gallinari wound up with 15 and DeAndre Jordan had 14 points and 14 rebounds for Los Angeles, which had won five of six.
McGee earned his fifth start of the season and had six points and four rebounds in nearly 14 minutes.
The Warriors are now 7-1 this season in the next game against an opponent after losing the first meeting. The Clippers beat Golden State 126-106 on Jan. 10 at Oracle Arena.
Thompson made two quick 3s to become the 10th Warriors player to reach 10,000 career points in the regular season, and his first 3 moved him past Joe Barry Carroll (9,996 points) for 10th place on the franchise’s career scoring list.
Golden State lost at Portland before the break but improved to 13-1 following a loss this season.
Clippers: Gallinari had an X-ray on his R hand and it was negative. … Williams had a season-high 11 assists. … Los Angeles shot just 11 for 31 from 3-point range. … The Clippers lost for only the sixth time in their last 19 games.
Warriors: West added 10 points. … Patrick McCaw missed his second straight game with a sprained left thumb, while Jordan Bell sat out a 13th in a row with inflammation in his left ankle.
Kerr used the resources of analytics guru Sammy Gelfand throughout the break to determine the Warriors aren’t defending nearly as well in the first five minutes of games than a year ago.
“Sammy Gelfand did not get an All-Star break,” Kerr said, explaining the biggest issue as, “We’re just not trying hard enough.”
Clippers guard Tyrone Wallace, on a two-way contract, had to fly into the Bay Area on game day. And the driver brought him straight to Oracle Arena, but the Los Angeles shootaround was not there.
“I told him to just go lay on the couch in my office back there,” coach Doc Rivers said. “The car took him to the hotel and he got there after shootaround.”
Clippers: Visit Phoenix on Friday.
Warriors: Host Oklahoma City on Saturday after the Thunder won at Golden State 125-105 on Feb. 6.
More AP NBA: apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball