Stephen Curry scored 20 of his 40 points in the fourth quarter Thursday as the NBA-leading Golden State Warriors rallied from a 13-point third-period deficit to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 104-89.
After being out-hustled by the shorthanded Cavs for most of the game, Golden State out-scored them 36-8 in the final frame to improve their league-leading record to 13-2.
Draymond Green scored just four points but handed out 14 assists for the Warriors and Damion Lee scored nine of his 11 points off the bench in the fourth to help turn the tide.
Curry made nine of his 16 three-point attempts, his fourth game with at least nine from behind the arc.
Curry notched his fourth game of the season with at least 40 points. No other player in the league has had more than two 40-point games so far this season.
But Curry said it was defense that finally made the difference for Golden State against a determined Cleveland team missing four injured or ailing starters in rookie Evan Mobley, Collin Sexton, Jarrett Allen and Lauri Markkanen.
“The only reason that we opened the game up is we went on a 13-0 run (to start the fourth) and they struggled to score,” Curry said.
“Through 36 minutes we really struggled to get stops and then force them into tough looks and we were playing against set defense the whole night.
“They had a lot of energy, they’re playing well, so fourth quarter, we just let it go, intensity and focus on the defensive end,” he added. “That was a real good, feel-good win.”
Trailing 81-68 to start the final period, the Warriors pulled level with their 13-0 run. They forced eight turnovers in the final period as they held the Cavaliers to 14.3 percent shooting.
Darius Garland led the Cavaliers with 25 points. Dean Wade and Kevin Love added 17 apiece.
There was no comeback for the Nuggets against the visiting Philadelphia 76ers in Denver, where Nuggets coach Michael Malone was ejected in the third quarter and had to be held back by NBA Most Valuable Player Nikola Jokic as he charged toward the official who tossed him.
Malone had said before the game that he knew Denver fans expected the Nuggets to “win this game by 30 points” with the 76ers, riding a five-game losing streak, without star big man Joel Embiid as well as Matisse Thybulle, Danny Green and Ben Simmons.
Embiid, who finished second to Nuggets star Jokic in MVP voting last season, missed a sixth straight game since entering the league’s Covid-19 protocols.
With his team struggling, Malone’s frustration boiled over in the third quarter and he was hit with two quick technical fouls and automatic ejection.
He raced onto the floor only for Jokic to stop him.
Malone eventually left the court to cheers from Nuggets fans. But Denver scored just 17 points in the third period and trailed by 18 entering the fourth on the way to a 103-89 defeat.
Tyrese Maxey led the 76ers with 22 points and Seth Curry added 20.
Jokic led Denver with 30 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists
Heat burn Wizards
In Miami, the Heat knocked Washington out of the top spot in the East, beating the Wizards 112-97 to join the Nets atop the conference at 11-5 — half a game in front of the Wizards and the Chicago Bulls.
Heat forward Jimmy Butler scored 32 points and Bam Adebayo, back from a two-game absence with a sore knee, added 20 points with nine rebounds.
Bradley Beal scored 30 points to lead the Wizards, who will try to turn the tables when the teams meet again in Washington on Saturday.