LOS ANGELES (AP) — For three quarters, Stephen Curry looked like a player who had not been on the court in over a month.
That rust quickly disappeared in the fourth quarter against the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday.
The All-Star guard scored 19 of his 27 points in the final 12 minutes of the Golden State Warriors’ 113-105 loss.
“He looked great. He is who he is. He strikes fear in opponents and opens up a lot of things for his teammates,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.
Curry was on a minutes restriction after missing 11 games with a left leg injury. He ended up playing 32 minutes in an important game for both teams.
“I felt like I got stronger as the game goes on,” Curry said. “It felt great to get thrown back in there right away. It was a little sluggish as far as the sharpness of skills early on, but then you start to feel the spirit of the game. If I get better as the game goes on, that’s always a great sign for me individually.”
Curry missed his first three shots and didn’t get on the board until midway through the second quarter, when he scored eight straight points. His run started with a step-back 3-pointer with 7:26 remaining in the first half.
After going 3 for 11 from the field in the first three quarters, Curry looked more like himself in the fourth. He was 5 of 9 from the field — including 3 of 6 on 3-pointers — and made all six of his free-throw attempts.
The Warriors, who trailed by 20 late in the first quarter, rallied back to tie it at 91 midway through the fourth, but never regained the lead as their five-game winning streak ended.
Curry’s goal over the final 17 games is to make sure the defending champions avoid the play-in tournament and possibly try to secure home-court advantage for at least the first round of the playoffs. Golden State (34-31) is fifth in the Western Conference.
“It’s weird to say it. We’re trying to win championships but we’re also trying to stay out of the play-in. Both can be true just based on what our challenges have been this year,” Curry said. “In terms of rotations and the amount of guys that have played well this year, it’s a fine balance between staying ready and knowing who you’re going to be out there with.
“We’re trying to find the right combinations to finish the season strong so that whoever we potentially play in the playoffs, we know what our identity is.”
Andre Iguodala also returned for the Warriors on Sunday and was scoreless in six minutes. He has played in only four games this season because of a hip issue. By JOE REEDY AP Sports Writer