As the Warriors built a dynasty, their All-Stars got accustomed to watching fourth quarters from the bench. Those late-game respites were vital for a team intent on playing deep into June annually.
But as Golden State struggled to regain its usual dominance this season, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green were forced to log more minutes than head coach Steve Kerr prefers. In Friday night’s 146-109 rout of the Bulls at Oracle Arena, the Warriors freed up their core to rest down the stretch for the second straight game, which should help in coming weeks.
“I loved the energy tonight from the bench,” Kerr said. “Guys were having fun. It’s felt good. I think this week’s been good. A couple of feel-good games, and now we’ve got some tough ones coming up, so we’ve got to be ready.”
Golden State leaves Saturday morning for Dallas, where it will begin a seven-city, eight-game, 15-day gauntlet. The most-intensive travel stretch of the season will feature DeMarcus Cousins’ return, slated for next Friday against the Clippers at Staples Center, from a torn left Achilles tendon.
That the Warriors are finally beginning to bully opponents bodes well for Cousins’ transition. In Tuesday’s 27-point win over the Knicks, Curry, Durant, Thompson and Green played portions of the fourth quarter before watching bench players finish things. Those four checked out for good at various points of the third Friday.
“When we’re locked in, we’re pretty good,” Durant said. “Obviously, we’d like to see this carry over to the next week of basketball, but we’ll see what happens.”
Thompson (30 points, seven three-pointers), Curry (28 points, five three-pointers), Durant (22 points, five assists) and Green (seven rebounds, six assists) were hyper-efficient, needing between 21 and 28 minutes to eradicate the game of doubt. By the time Curry checked out with 2:30 left in the third, Golden State was up 113-71.
With Thompson leading the way, the Warriors built a 43-17 lead by the end of the first quarter. It was their second-largest point margin after the first period in the shot-clock era (since 1954-55). On Nov. 2, 1991, against the Kings, Golden State led by 30 points after the first quarter.
After digging such a massive hole early, the Bulls didn’t seriously threaten. The Warriors’ 37-point margin of victory Friday was easily their biggest of the season, topping 28-point wins over the Knicks (Oct. 26) and Trail Blazers (Nov. 23).
It was more evidence that, after underwhelming much of the first half of the season, Golden State is settling into a rhythm and playing the part of bully. The Warriors shot 57.6 percent from the field, 46.2 percent (18-for-39) from three-point range and 84.6 percent (22-for-26) from the foul line.
Thompson set the tone early by needing less than 90 seconds to score nine points on three three-pointers with zero dribbles. Early in the third quarter, Curry hit his third three-pointer of the night to pass Jason Terry on the NBA’s all-time threes list. Only Reggie Miller and Ray Allen — two of Curry’s childhood heroes — sit above him.
On having been influenced by Miller and Allen, Curry said: “It’s just a special accomplishment, in terms of two guys I know who are trend-setters, stretching the imagination of the three-point game, doing that for many, many years. People that I looked up to as a young kid playing the game.”
With the main players watching from the bench, seldom-used reserves got extended playing time. Jordan Bell, who has had a tough time carving out a regular rotation spot despite plenty of opportunities, had 13 points in 15 minutes. Two-way-contract player Marcus Derrickson chipped in 10 points in 12 minutes.
Photo: Santiago Mejia / The Chronicle
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The question now is whether Golden State can pummel teams not bound for the lottery. The Knicks and Bulls were a good tuneup for a key road stretch, but much tougher tests loom.
This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/warriors/article/Stars-rest-4th-quarter-as-Warriors-rout-Bulls-13528388.php.