BY STEPHEN WHYNO
WASHINGTON (AP) — Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors saw a weakness and changed their style to exploit it.
When the Washington Wizards took the 3-point line away, Curry and the Warriors pounded the ball inside on the way to a 126-118 victory Thursday night that extended their winning streak to a season-high nine games. Curry scored 38 points at the forefront of Golden State’s drive-the-paint strategy, making just two of his eight 3-point attempts and going 12 of 16 inside the arc.
“Got to take what the defense gives you,” Curry said. “I think for the most part we moved the ball early and got everybody established. And then the lane starts to open up, and you’ve got to take advantage of it some nights.”
The two-time defending NBA champions put up 70 points in the paint after shooting 1 of 6 from the outside in the first quarter.
Center DeMarcus Cousins had 17 points in 24 minutes in his third game with the Warriors since missing almost a full year with a ruptured left Achilles tendon. Cousins was a matchup nightmare in the post against Washington, which went with a small lineup for most of the night.
“It’s not something we’ve really practiced a lot, so we kind of just threw it out there and tried to do it on the fly,” Cousins said of going inside so much. “We were successful in some moments and then we kind of got on top of each other and it got a little sloppy. I’m sure that’s something we’ll work on going forward.”
Kevin Durant, who’s from nearby Suitland, Maryland, scored 21 points.
Trevor Ariza led the Wizards with a season-high 27 points and Bradley Beal had 22 points as their two-game winning streak came to an end.
“I think we’re turning a corner,” Beal said. “We’re still not there yet. We still have to dig ourselves out of this hole that we’re in. There’s only a short amount of time to do it, but we have a great opportunity in front of us.”
After the Warriors led by 12 after three quarters, the Wizards went on an 11-2 run to get back into the game. With Curry, Durant and Draymond Green on the bench, a 3-pointer by little-used Chasson Randle with 7:46 left cut Washington’s deficit to two at 108-106, and Sam Dekker missed a lay-in on the next possession that would have tied it.
Shaun Livingston hit two free throws the next time down the floor for Golden State, and dunks by Alfonzo McKinnie and Kevon Looney pushed the lead back up to eight. The Warriors pulled away when Curry re-entered the game and haven’t lost since Jan. 3.
“Every win in the NBA is tough and it’s hard to win in the NBA, so no one’s taking it for granted,” Durant said. “But we are striving for perfection every night, and I think tonight was a step in the right direction.”
Warriors: Curry surpassed 30 points for the 19th time this season. … Green grabbed a season-high 15 rebounds. … One game after tying an NBA record by making his first 10 3-point attempts, Klay Thompson was 1 of 4 on 3s. … F Jonas Jerebko did not fly with the team because his wife was due to give birth.
Wizards: G Tomas Satoransky tied a season-high with 20 points. … F Otto Porter Jr. came off the bench for the 10th consecutive game, was 0 of 7 on 3-point attempts and finished with seven points. … Beal shot 1 of 9 on 3s.
Even though a photo of the Warriors visiting with former President Barack Obama came out on social media, players and coach Steve Kerr were reluctant to talk about it. Curry said he had no idea where the idea came from, Durant called it amazing and Green called it a “good private team meeting.”
Curry and Durant were named All-Star starters, but Kerr doesn’t expect Golden State to have four representatives this year, namely because Green and Thompson haven’t been playing at their recent levels consistently enough to make it. And the Warriors weren’t this dominant in previous months.
“I don’t think it’s been that kind of a season,” Kerr said. “It’s been rocky at least until the last few weeks.”
Warriors: Look for their 10th consecutive victory at old nemesis Kyrie Irving and the Boston Celtics on Saturday.
Wizards: Begin a three-game road trip Friday at the Orlando Magic.
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