It wasn't easy, but the Golden State Warriors got back on track Monday, a night after suffering their worst loss of the season to the lowly Los Angeles Lakers. In so doing, they made yet more NBA history.
Back in the familiar confines of Oracle Arena, the Warriors held off a furious late Orlando Magic rally to win 119-113, and set a new record with their 45th consecutive regular-season home victory.
If there was any question of whether Sunday's hangover would carry over to Monday, the Warriors put it to rest in short order. By the time five minutes had elapsed, both Steph Curry and Klay Thompson had already hit more 3-pointers than they had all game against the Lakers. Three minutes after that, the Warriors had pushed their lead to double-digits, were having all kinds of fun, and looked primed to run up the score on the overmatched Magic.
The game followed that same arc through three quarters, with the Magic making only the occasional mini-run that the Warriors would quickly shrug off. Curry very much looked like Curry again, regaining his stroke to shoot 14-of-24 from the field, 7-of-13 from beyond the arc, and 6-of-6 from the line for a game-high 41 points, splashing jumpers even when Orlando defenders took away every inch of airspace.
Along the way, he became the first player ever to hit 300 threes in a season, reaching the plateau with a characteristically impossible shot that seemed to travel straight through the hands of 6-foot-10 Magic forward Ersan Ilyasova before finding the bottom of the net.
The Warriors built a 17-point lead going into the fourth, and that looked to be that. Their bench unit, though, couldn't hold the fort, and by the time Curry and Draymond Green checked back into the game 3:41 into the quarter, the scrappy Magic had sliced the lead to six.
They'd whittle it all the way down to two before all was said and done, as Victor Oladipo, Brandon Jennings, Aaron Gordon, and Evan Fournier collectively caught fire down the stretch. Two Oladipo free throws made it 111-109 with just over a minute to play.
Suddenly finding themselves in a dogfight, the Warriors ran a nervy, discombobulated possession that saw them very nearly turn the ball over. And yet, as it so often has this season, the wayward ball found its way, as if by cosmic ordination, into the hands of a waiting Warrior. This time it was Thompson, in the right corner. With the shot clock dying, he drained a three over Oladipo's outstretched arm.
The next possession, Curry stole the ball from Oladipo, went the length of the court for a layup, and the Warriors had etched their names in the history books one more time.