OAKLAND, Calif. — Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson has been pleading with his players to improve their defensive effort and efficiency for most of the last two weeks.
They finally answered his call.
Stephen Curry had 38 points, eight assists and seven rebounds, and the Warriors used a smothering defense to beat the Portland Trail Blazers 103-88 on Sunday night.
“Just what the doctor ordered,” Jackson said.
Curry, the Western Conference’s newly elected All-Star starting point guard, shot 13 of 23 from the floor while wearing shiny gold shoes to carry the offensive load. The Warriors did it all on defense together, though, building a 22-point lead midway through the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach.
Golden State outshot Portland 41.8 percent to 33.7 percent and forced 15 turnovers while committing only nine. It was a season low in points and shooting percentage and it tied the largest margin of defeat for the Blazers, who entered averaging an NBA-best 109.5 points.
“Just the will to win,” Curry said. “We understand that’s been one of our problems — just letting teams kind of cake walk around on the offensive end doing whatever they want to do early in the game.”
Damian Lillard had 16 points and four assists, and Wesley Matthews scored 21 for the Blazers, who had a quick turnaround after beating Minnesota in Portland on Saturday night.
The Blazers had not been held below 40 percent shooting all season. The defeat equaled a 116-101 loss to Houston on Nov. 5 for Portland’s most lopsided margin.
“That was a rough game,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “The first half both teams played pretty well, but the second half we didn’t have much going at the offensive end. Golden State did a nice job with its defense. It was just one of those nights where we just didn’t have enough at the offensive end.”
David Lee added 17 points and 12 rebounds while playing with a sprained left shoulder, and Klay Thompson scored 17 for a Warriors team that had lost three straight at home.
Jackson has been waiting for his team to correct its defensive deficiencies of late, even after victories. Golden State allowed an average of 92.8 points during a 10-game winning streak before dropping five of its last seven overall, allowing 108.4 points in those contests, including an average of 115 in the five losses.
The Warriors never let the Blazers get comfortable. LaMarcus Aldridge, who finished with 11 rebounds and 10 points on 2-of-14 shooting, didn’t score until 2:18 remained in the second quarter.
“Just one of those nights where I couldn’t get going and I didn’t find a rhythm,” Aldridge said.
And the only time Aldridge started to get going, the Warriors responded.
Andrew Bogut got into a skirmish with Aldridge after the whistle in the third quarter, then Aldridge tossed the ball at the Warriors center. Officials called a technical foul on both players.
The Warriors responded with a 16-2 run. Golden State held a 76-67 lead entering the fourth quarter, when it quickly turned the game into a rout.
“What I like is we paid attention to detail,” Jackson said. “We didn’t have any game-plan breakdown. We battled. We competed. We made multiple-effort plays and we continued it all night long.”
Golden State started the final quarter on a 12-2 run to take control. Lee’s layup put the Warriors up 91-69 with 7:18 remaining, leaving little drama late.
Portland pulled to 94-85 on Matthews’ free throws with 2:56 to play. Curry then connected on a jumper and a 3-pointer sandwiched around a free throw by Lillard to send most of the sellout crowd of 19,596 heading to the exits early — and happy.
Curry, who doesn’t usually guard opposing point guards, checked Lillard most of the game and never let the Oakland native find his stroke.
“We can score the ball, but it stinks to come in the locker room and you see everybody had big nights, we just isolate the offensive end but we end up losing and it’s all for nothing,” Curry said. “Games like this when you get a win and figure out how to close it out and get stops, it makes what we can do as a team on the offensive end that much more special.”
NOTES: The Warriors improved to 20-4 this season when leading after three quarters. ... The teams have split two games this season after the Blazers won 113-101 in Oakland on Nov. 23. They meet two more times in Portland.