|Warriors set to unleash Cousins against Clippers|
So much for all that early-season talk that the Los Angeles Clippers had somehow broken the Golden State Warriors.
Two months after Warriors standouts Draymond Green and Kevin Durant appeared to have a heated exchange late in a 121-116 overtime defeat to the Clippers, all appears to be just fine in the land of the two-time defending NBA champions.
The Warriors will set foot on the Clippers' home court Friday for the first time since that contentious game on Nov. 12 when Stephen Curry did not play. Durant and Green had an animated conversation on the bench after Green lost control of the ball in the closing seconds of regulation while a wide-open Durant could be seen asking for the ball.
Sure, the Warriors lost four of their next five games after that incident, but with Curry back in the fold after a groin strain, Golden State is back doing its thing again.
And here's another reason to ratchet up the Warriors' hype machine: All-Star forward DeMarcus Cousins is expected to make his Warriors debut Friday after recovering from a torn Achilles tendon, an injury that happened nearly a year to the day when he was a member of the New Orleans Pelicans.
"Kind of nervous about it, actually," he said in an ESPN interview about his comeback, while predicting that he will be an even better player.
"So you know, a lot of things have changed in my game. You start to tune up other areas of your game: jump shooting, skill work," he said. "I think everything has just increased and gotten better."
Curry, the two-time MVP, might actually be playing better than ever, having made at least nine 3-point baskets in each of his past three games. He is the first player in NBA history to make at least eight in three consecutive games.
He tied his own NBA record with 28 total 3-pointers in those games.
Since Golden State's current six-game winning streak started, no team has made more 3-pointers than the Warriors, who have drilled 18.6 per game. Their 43 attempts per game in that time are second-best in the league to the Houston Rockets.
And the Warriors are coming off a victory over the Pelicans in which both teams combined for an NBA-record 43 3-point makes. The previous record of 41 was set Jan. 5 in a victory over the Sacramento Kings.
"It's all about the way we create open looks from 3," Curry said in the San Jose Mercury News.
"It's not about every possession thinking, 'How do we get a 3 up?' Moving the ball, moving bodies, noticing certain patterns that we have and guys shooting with confidence. It creates a good vibe and momentum for us."
While the Warriors (31-14) have assumed their regular place atop the Western Conference standings, the Clippers (24-20) are in flux, having dropped four consecutive games and six of their last nine.
Unity has not been the Clippers' issue, unless that unity has to do with a symbiotic relationship on defense. Expected to be a solid defensive team when the season began, the Clippers seemed to shed that identity when they understood how dynamic an offensive team they could be.
But the offense has been inconsistent of late, leading to a 12.5-point margin of defeat in the past four games, including a 129-109 loss to the visiting Utah Jazz on Wednesday.
"We'll come in and watch some film; correct some mistakes," Clippers guard Lou Williams said when asked about the recent defensive issues.
"We had some slippage. It happens in the course of the season. Obviously, senses are going to be heightened because it's Golden State on Friday, but to us, it's just another basketball team we've got to be prepared to compete (against)."
Heightened, indeed. The Warriors have not scored fewer than 119 points in any of the six victories on their winning streak and are averaging 133.8 points over that stretch. Included in that run is an NBA-record 51-point first quarter Tuesday at Denver.
The Clippers enter the game still awaiting the return of forward Luc Mbah a Moute, who has missed most of the season with a sore left knee. With Cousins ready to be activated, the Warriors are only missing center Damian Jones, who is out indefinitely with a pectoral injury.
--Field Level Media