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Saturday's NBA: Curry, Warriors beat Suns, regain league's top spot

John Marshall
Associated Press

Phoenix — The Golden State Warriors kept it close despite being short-handed, setting the stage for a player to take over down the stretch.

One did — and it wasn’t Stephen Curry. Otto Porter Jr. took late-game honors.

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) shoots between Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton (22) and guard Cameron Payne.

Curry had 33 points, Porter scored seven of his 19 during a key late stretch and the Warriors regained to top spot in the NBA from Phoenix, beating the Suns 116-107 on Saturday.

“I drew up every play, I completely organized every aspect of it,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said sarcastically. “Otto was great. He’s just added so much to our team with his shooting from that position and his rebounding and defense.”

Golden State arrived in the desert short-handed, missing three of its top four scorers to health and safety protocols: Andrew Wiggins, Damion Lee and Jordan Poole.

Curry carried most of the load, overcoming a mediocre shooting night to crack 20 points for the first time in nine Christmas games. He finished 10 for 27, including 5 for 16 from 3 to help the Warriors end Phoenix’s 15-game home winning streak.

Porter hit a step-back 3 and a pair of jumpers in a span of 1:02.

“Coach drew up a couple plays that freed me open,” Porter said. “Did a good job of finding me, was able to find a rhythm.”

The Suns had their chances, keeping it close until the closing minutes in a raucous home atmosphere. They couldn’t close it out, failing to score over the final 3:01 to lose for the third time in 28 games.

Chris Paul had 21 points and eight assists to take up some of the slack from leading scorer Devin Booker, who was held to 13 points on 5-of-19 shooting. Deandre Ayton added 18 points and Mikal Bridges 17.

“They created those breaks. They played harder than us,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “It’s rare when I say that about our team. They outworked us more consistently for 50-50 balls, timely offensive rebounds, diving out of bounds to save balls.”

The two teams with the NBA’s best records played in just the third Christmas game in which both teams had a winning percentage of at least .800.

Playing on Christmas is nothing new to the Warriors. This was their ninth straight Christmas Day game and 11th in 12 seasons. The Suns, once regulars on the Christmas schedule, were in their first since 2009.

Both teams put on an after-the-presents offensive show at Footprint Center, sending oohs and aahs across the Footprint Center with each dunk and 3-pointer.

Curry had 11 points in the first quarter and Payton a massive rebound slam as the Warriors built an early 10-point lead. The Suns revved it up in the second quarter, going on a 15-3 run and taking a 62-58 halftime lead on Paul’s last-second 3-pointer.

The teams continued to trade 3s and baskets in transition, neither able to gain any separation until Golden State went on a short run to go up 107-99.

The Suns pulled within two, but Porter hit consecutive jumpers and a long 3 to stretch Golden State’s lead to nine.

“They wanted it more and they played like it,” Booker said. “We just have to take this loss and move on to our next game.”

Saturday's other games

(At) Milwaukee 117, Boston 113: Giannis Antetokounmpo returned from the NBA’s healthy and safety protocols to score 36 points, and Wesley Matthews hit a 3-pointer with 30.3 seconds left to give Milwaukee its first lead in the Bucks’ victory over Boston.

Seeing his first action since Dec. 12, Antetokounmpo played 30 minutes and connected on 13 of 23 shots while shooting 10 for 15 from the free-throw line. Milwaukee also got center Bobby Portis and guard Donte DiVincenzo back from COVID-19 protocols.

Boston had just eight players available after putting Dennis Schroder in the protocols earlier Saturday, but took control behind Jaylen Brown, who scored 14 of his 25 points in the opening quarter. Jayson Tatum also scored 25 points for Boston, which led by as many as 19 and went into halftime with a 35-22 advantage.

(At) New York 101, Atlanta 87: Kemba Walker became the seventh NBA player with a triple-double on Christmas, and New York beat depleted Atlanta for its first victory on the holiday in a decade.

Julius Randle had 25 points and 12 rebounds for the Knicks in a matchup of teams that met in the first round of last season’s playoffs. But the Hawks were missing Trae Young among nine players in the NBA’s health and safety protocols, so it wasn’t much of a rematch of Atlanta’s five-game victory.

Walker finished with 10 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds. It was the first triple-double on Christmas since Golden State’s Draymond Green in 2017. John Collins and Delon Wright each scored 20 points for the Hawks.

Brooklyn 122, (at) L.A. Lakers 115: Nic Claxton threw down a tiebreaking alley-oop over LeBron James with 40.7 seconds left, and James Harden and the Nets returned from a week-long COVID-19 hiatus.

Harden had 36 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. The last helper was a lob that Claxton caught with two hands while soaring over James, who had just helped Los Angeles erase a 20-point deficit. Claxton posterized the 17-time All-Star, then made a free throw for a three-point play and a 118-115 lead.