PHILADELPHIA — Steph Curry’s only made shot in the first half Wednesday night was waved off after review. Officials determined he kicked out his leg on a 3. They changed the call to a Curry offensive foul, giving him four turnovers and only two points through two quarters.
That kind of Curry stat line, on the road, would almost always mean trouble for an 11th-place Golden State Warriors team that still orbits around him. But it was just an irrelevant footnote in what became a blowout win boosted by the depth around him.
The Warriors were up by 3 points at halftime despite an ineffective Curry and finished a 127-104 stomping of the Philadelphia 76ers while he rested the entire fourth quarter, having scored only nine points on seven shots, giving him some needed rest before a quick turnaround back-to-back in Indianapolis on Thursday to close out the road trip.
But there is NBA business at hand before that game. The trade deadline hits Thursday afternoon. The front office is back in San Francisco contemplating a variety of possible deals. That timing adds an extra layer of intrigue to the complete performance in Philadelphia, given who played so well.
Andrew Wiggins returned after a recent foot injury to score 21 points in 23 minutes. He made nine of his 14 shots and had 10 rebounds, a steal and a block. He looked bouncy and confident and continued to work well as a wing pairing next to Jonathan Kuminga, a recent development that has made Wiggins more palatable for the front office to keep.
If he was blocking Kuminga’s playing time or unable to share the court with him, there’d be more motivation to clear the path for Kuminga’s arrival. But Wiggins and Kuminga — after a minus-106 disaster together the first few months — are a cumulative plus-74 in 164 minutes in the previous nine games, coinciding with Draymond Green’s return.
While he is the highest profile name the Warriors appear to be actively discussing, Wiggins’ preference is to remain.
“I love it here,” Wiggins said. “Love the fans, coaches, organization, teammates.”
Andrew Wiggins: “I love it here. Love the fans, coaches, organization, teammates.” pic.twitter.com/Jl2kLUrKMS
— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) February 8, 2024
Klay Thompson had one of his worst games of the season on Saturday in Atlanta in the Warriors’ only loss on this trip. He went 4 of 19 shooting, missing some vital shots late in the fourth quarter and overtime. Those struggles snowballed in Brooklyn when coach Steve Kerr opted to close with Gui Santos over Thompson down the stretch, which became a national story.
Thompson delivered a response on Wednesday night, hitting four of his five 3s en route to 18 efficient points in 28 minutes. His final make was a transition push, pump fake, pull-up wing 3 — vintage Thompson. Kerr said he looked “relaxed” and Thompson credited his patience after the game before reiterating his lack of concern about his name popping up in trade rumors.
“I don’t partake in NBA discourse on the internet,” Thompson said. “I think that’s such a waste of energy. At the end of the day, whether I’m wearing a Dubs uniform or another uniform, I’m gonna be myself. I’m gonna be KT.”
There’s no sense that the Warriors intend to trade Thompson before the deadline. He expressed a desire to remain with them past Thursday and into the future.
“That is correct,” Thompson said. “Good assessment.”
Klay Thompson on the deadline rumors: “I don’t partake in NBA discourse.”
-On his desire to be with the Warriors long term: “That is correct. Good assessment.”
-On his belief in this team: “I see Steph Curry. I see Draymond. I go home and check our playoff record.” pic.twitter.com/tMe2IH5MCy
— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) February 8, 2024
Kevon Looney is the third veteran member of the now-defunct starting lineup who has struggled for a portion of this season, leading to the Warriors’ current position out of the playoff picture. Looney, like Thompson and Wiggins, was great against the 76ers. Kerr didn’t put him in the game until early in the second quarter but he said Looney changed the team’s focus and energy.
Looney had a weakside block, a couple of difficult finishes and even powered through Mo Bamba for an and-1. He was a plus-11 in the first half, with a chunk of those minutes without Curry or Green on the floor and finished with 9 points, two rebounds, two assists and two steals in 17 minutes.
“We know there is a lot of trade noise, but I haven’t heard a lot of chatter about it in the locker room,” Looney said. “I don’t think we’re nervous. I don’t think it’s bothering us. I actually think we’re starting to play better.”
Looney is making $7.5 million this season and only has $3 million of his $8 million guaranteed next season, a deal that can be useful as a vehicle in a midsized trade, which is mostly what’s available on the market. Looney has a rookie, Trayce Jackson-Davis, who has shown some promise behind him on the depth chart.
“Everyone will be checking our phone until the deadline is over,” Looney said. “You never know. We know the business. We know we don’t have the best record.”
Before the game, Kerr maintained his recent stance that he doesn’t think the Warriors will make a trade and he doesn’t think they need to make a move in order to make playoff noise.
“I feel like this group can do something special,” Kerr said. “I really do. So if we don’t do anything tomorrow, we feel like we have a good group we can push with.”
Steve Kerr has maintained he doesn’t think the Warriors have to make a trade: “I feel like this group can do something special. I really do. So if we don’t do anything tomorrow, we feel like we have a good group we can push with.” pic.twitter.com/MJxEu4UIxU
— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) February 7, 2024
After the win, a blowout that brought them within a game of the Play-In bracket but still 5.5 games out of the sixth seed, Kerr doubled down on the optimism for a 23-25 team.
“Our defense has been better over the last couple weeks,” Kerr said. “I don’t know what our rating is, but I know it’s dramatically better than we were before that. I like the starting lineup. I like JK and Wiggs together. Everyone on this team has just overcome whatever individual obstacles have come their way. … I really feel great about the path we are on.”
The Warriors are 5-3 in their previous eight games. The three losses were narrow — two 1-point losses to the Kings and Lakers and an overtime loss to the Hawks. They have a 112.3 defensive rating during that stretch, ranking seventh. Green’s return has a ton to do with that. So there is a surprising level of belief growing, considering where they still sit.
“I see Steph Curry,” Thompson said. “I see Draymond. You go home and you check our playoff record as a trio and you have what we have, champions, I believe. I will always believe. It’s a long season. I will always believe we can make a run if we are suited up together.”
(Photo of Steph Curry, who sat out the fourth quarter against the 76ers, talking with injured teammate Chris Paul: Bill Streicher / USA Today)