ORLANDO, Fla. — Steve Kerr was worried before the game.
The Golden State Warriors’ coach was concerned because his team didn’t practice Saturday after an overnight stay in Houston on Friday because of weather conditions, and because there was no typical pregame meeting leading up Sunday’s noon ET start versus the Orlando Magic.
From his own playing experiences, Kerr said skipping those ritual sessions often leads to carelessness. And his concerns were valid.
But thanks to a dominating, inspiring third quarter, the Warriors overcame early-game mishaps and did away with the Magic 118-98 at Amway Center on Sunday afternoon.
“Difficult. Extremely difficult,” Draymond Green said of the early start time. “I think you could tell in our play in the first half, but it’s the NBA. You gotta figure things out like that. We figured it out.”
Stephen Curry scored a game-high 27 points and was a pivotal force in getting his team out of Orlando with a seven-game winning streak.
The Warriors came out flat and disengaged, turning the ball over eight times in the first seven minutes. Most of their passes were telegraphed, and the Magic capitalized by getting out in the open court for transition baskets.
Golden State was also a step too slow on defensive rotations in the first half. Orlando zipped the ball around swiftly and was able to locate the open guy. The Warriors were down by as many as 11 in the second quarter.
Kerr called timeout after timeout to light a fire in his players. After what surely felt like a 9 a.m. Pacific tipoff — this was the first time the Warriors played a noon ET game since March 26, 1995, coincidentally also at Orlando — the game was tied at 50 at the break.
“There was no morning,” Green said with a chuckle. “It was wake up, grab some food, throw on some sweats, get out of there. I think my bus [to the arena] was at 9:30. That’s 6:30 [a.m.] West Coast time. We’ve only been gone for two days. So it was brutal.”
Golden State performed sluggishly over the first 24 minutes, but these Warriors have relished third quarters this season. Entering this contest, they were a league-high plus-250 in the third on the season. Sunday was just the latest dominant third-quarter performance from the Warriors.
“For whatever reason, we’ve had a bunch of really good third quarters the last couple of weeks,” Kerr said. “It seems to me the time when we pick up our defense, and that translates into some transition hoops and some 3-pointers.
“And I don’t know why, but that seems to be the key time for us these days.”
The Warriors went on a 22-6 third-quarter run, spearheaded by Curry. The two-time MVP exploded for 16 of his 27 points in the quarter and knocked down four of his seven triples during that juncture.
And just like that, a 50-50 tie was replaced by a 20-point advantage after a Curry 3-pointer. The Magic weren’t able to regain their footing, even though the Warriors coughed up the ball 18 times in the game. Golden State outscored Orlando 42-24 in the third, and this victory made it seven straight wins over the Magic.
“We found our energy and execution and stopped turning the ball over,” Curry said. “And after that, we get stops and our talent was able to take over on the offensive end. It’s nice to see shots going in, obviously, but we got to get stops and take care of the basketball to really get that done.
“To bounce back in the third quarter and do what we did, it shows a lot about our mentality and focus and how much winning means to us.”
Klay Thompson also converted seven triples on nine attempts for 21 points. Kevin Durant went for 15 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists. Zaza Pachulia added 14 points and five boards.
“It just felt good to get the win,” Thompson said. “It’s not easy to play technically a 9 o’clock West Coast time, but we adjusted.”
Elfrid Payton led the Magic with 23 points and 10 assists. Orlando backup point guard D.J. Augustin exited in the second quarter after spraining his right ankle.
The Warriors will travel to Miami for the second game of a back-to-back on Monday and then finish off their four-game road trip in Charlotte on Wednesday.
After this weekend’s quick turnaround, Curry & Co. will welcome the short break: They’ll have almost 30 hours until Monday night’s 7:30 p.m. ET tip against the Heat.
“It’s nice [that] it’s 2:54 to be done,” Curry joked. “I’m ready to get to the next city.”