The Warriors entered the marquee Martin Luther King Jr. Day matchup with the Los Angeles Lakers as clear underdogs, distant challengers to the reigning champions' throne following five straight NBA Finals appearances from 2015-19.
Even without Klay Thompson, these Warriors aren't going to quietly fall out of contention if Steph Curry and Draymond Green have anything to say about it. Curry and Green combined for 12 points in the fourth quarter of the Warriors' 115-113 win over the Lakers on Monday, including each of Golden State's final seven points as it took the lead for good.
That almost wasn't the case, as the Warriors trailed by as many as 19 points.
"We've been in every type of situation this year," Curry told TNT broadcasters Brian Anderson and Reggie Miller after the win. "There's something about these big, national TV games -- we love getting down by 20 or so, and tonight we just found a little resilience."
Unlike the Warriors' blowout losses to the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks to open the season, the Warriors clawed away at the Lakers' lead Monday. It was evocative of another win over a title contender from LA, when Golden State came back from as many as 22 down against the Clippers on Jan. 8.
Curry and Green struggled with their shots in the first three quarters, with the former shooting 6-for-17 and the latter going 1-for-4. The Warriors were a garish minus-18 in Green's minutes, and only slightly better (minus-13) in Curry's.
But the three-time champions stepped up when it mattered most. Both players were plus-10 in the fourth quarter, combining to shoot 4-of-7 from the field. Curry missed a late layup that would've put the Warriors up four points with seconds remaining, but his 3-pointer with 1:07 left ultimately gave Golden State enough cover.
"That's a perfect situation, obviously," Curry said of the missed layup. "Thirty seconds, six-second differential [with the shot clock]. You get a bucket, it's game over. Thankfully I milked the clock down. I want that bunny back, but it's all about keeping perspective on the positive. Thank god I hit that 3 beforehand to give us a little separation, so I'll choose to think about that now!"
Curry credited Kelly Oubre Jr., who scored a season-high 23 points in what Curry called his best game of the season, and the Warriors' bench for leading the way in Golden State's comeback. The second unit scored 18 of the Warriors' 34 points in the fourth quarter.
Green and Curry were in position to close things out thanks to the bench, giving the Lakers -- and, potentially, the rest of the Western Conference -- that 7-6 Warriors should not to be written off just yet amid an up-and-down start to the season.