LOS ANGELES: Stephen Curry provided a late fourth-quarter lift as the defending champion Golden State Warriors defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 89-83 on Friday (Saturday in Manila) in a rematch of last season’s NBA finals.
Reigning NBA Most Valuable Player Curry sank back-to-back driving layups in the final minutes to answer consecutive slam dunks by LeBron James, and shut down a Cleveland rally as Golden State improved the best start in NBA history to 28-1.
“We don’t believe we’re going to make a statement with one game,” Warriors interim coach Luke Walton said. “Overall, we’re 28-1. That’s more of a statement.”
Curry scored 19 points, grabbed seven rebounds and passed out seven assists while Draymond Green had 22 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists for the Warriors.
“We want more,” Curry said. “We tasted a little bit of success, won a championship, but we have such potential on this team we want to accomplish more. Having the record [start]is great but we want to do a lot more.”
The Warriors are on pace to have the winningest record in NBA history, and Curry is on pace to break his own record from 3-point baskets in a season.
In other Christmas games, Jimmy Butler scored 23 points to power Chicago over Oklahoma City 105-96 and Chris Bosh’s 30 points sparked Miami over New Orleans 94-88 in over-time.
At Houston, James Harden scored 18 of his 20 points in the second half to lift the host Rockets over the San Antonio Spurs 88-84 while Chris Paul scored 23 points leading the Los Angeles Clippers over the Los Angeles Lakers 94-84.
Warriors perfect at home
In a grinding contest that produced their lowest-scoring game this season, the Warriors improved to 14-0 at home this season with their 32nd overall home victory in a row. They shot only 41 percent from the floor but held Cleveland to 31 percent, including 5-of-30 from 3-point range.
“That was a big win,” Curry said. “We came out defensively and did what we were supposed to do. We were a little off offensively but if we can continue to do that, we’ll be fine.”
Curry missed part of the second quarter after aggravating a right calf injury he suffered Wednesday, but said he would not miss any games.
James scored 25 points and grabbed nine rebounds but the Cavaliers fell to 19-8, 6-7 on the road, and saw their six-game win streak ended by the same team that beat them four games to two in last June’s NBA Finals.
J.R. Smith had 14 points for Cleveland while Kyrie Irving added 13 and Kevin Love and Australian Matthew Dellavedova added 10 points each.
“There were a lot of little things as far as the shots were concerned… that did catch up with us,” Cavaliers coach Dave Blatt said.
At Houston, the Rockets improved to 16-15 while the Spurs, with the second-best record in the NBA, fell to 25-6.
“We’re a really good team. We just hadn’t been playing well,” Harden said. “It’s a growing process for us. We just have to keep going. We’ve gained confidence these last couple weeks. We’ve got to build on it and see where we can go.”
Heat stretch holiday streak
At Miami, the Heat won a seventh consecutive Christmas outing despite shooting a woeful 39.8 percent from the floor.
“We showed a lot of resiliency,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We’ll take this win.”
A week after saying coach Fred Hoiberg was being too soft and laid-back on the Bulls, Butler helped end a three-game losing streak.
“It wasn’t part of a plan but whatever works works,” Butler said. “I’m going to play with all my might. We’ve got a great group of guys. If we play hard together, we can do anything.”
Butler hit 9-of-20 shots from the field and added six rebounds and four assists for the Bulls, who had 21 points and 13 rebounds from Spanish big man Pau Gasol as Chicago improved to 16-11.
Kevin Durant scored a game-high 29 points with nine rebounds and seven assists to lead Oklahoma City, which fell to 20-10.
At Los Angeles, the Clippers survived their lowest scoring quarter of the season with only nine in the fourth as the Lakers reserves rallied once the Clippers went to their bench.
“You’ve got to stay ready,” Paul said. “You just never know. Guys are going to make runs.”
Retiring Lakers guard Kobe Bryant had 12 points to lead his team’s starters in his final Christmas game.