Everything Steph Curry wanted to inject into the Warriors when he returned to the court after missing five games could be summed up in one play.
With three seconds left in the third quarter Monday against the Chicago Bulls, Curry positioned himself and set his feet right in front of Zach LaVine. As LaVine tried to barrel his way to the basket, Curry absorbed all the contact, falling back on the injured tailbone that forced him to miss the previous five games.
"He knew what he was getting into when he stepped on the floor," Kent Bazemore said in a video conference with reporters. "It just speaks to the resilience and the fortitude he has to push through the pain and still play at a high level."
Resilience and fortitude are exactly what the Warriors were lacking during Curry's absence and it was all the difference in their 116-102 win over the Bulls.
Heading into Monday night, the Warriors were in their worst funk of the season. Yes, they had lost four games before, but that skid didn't feel nearly as bad as what the Warriors experienced after Curry bruised his tailbone in Houston on March 17.
Simply put, they looked lost, helpless and unmotivated. It makes sense that the game would be harder for them without their two-time MVP.
"It's obvious, but he changes everything," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "Him being out on the floor, the game becomes so much easier for the whole team. It opened things up for us and I thought every guy on the floor played well. Every single guy out there."
Kerr isn't wrong. Monday night's game was one of the Warriors' most complete in a while.
While Curry finished with 32 points (a game high), five rebounds, six assists and one steal, Andrew Wiggins added 21 points, five assists, two steals and a block, Kelly Oubre Jr. had an 18-point, 11-rebound double-double and James Wiseman had 12 points and four blocks. Even Draymond Green scored 11 points and hit three 3-pointers after not taking a shot two days ago, adding nine assists and five rebounds.
"[Curry] is the heart and soul of what we do," Kerr said. "The last few games, it's been tough without that dynamic of having Steph flying off screens, and running pick-and-rolls, and spreading the floor and bringing his juice and his life and energy to the game. We were in a little rut, and we needed him and he came through."
Curry's impact on the Warriors is undeniable. After all, Kerr nicknamed Curry "The System" for a reason. Everything Golden State does on offense is meant to maximize his style of play, and when it works, it feeds the defense.
It's the way he spaces the floor by pulling defenders 30 feet away from the hoop, how he can score like there's nothing to it and seamlessly involve his teammates.
And yet the mental side of the game -- the juice and life Kerr mentioned -- was just as, if not more important.
Ahead of Monday's game, Curry said the Warriors needed to regain their pride and swagger, which they showed glimpses of earlier in the season but completely lost following the All-Star break. And if the Warriors wanted to break out of their skid, they needed to have fun again. That's nearly impossible when losing game after game in a demoralizing fashion.
Getting Curry back and breaking that streak is the first step.
"The winning part is very vital for our team because it just boosts the endurance on our team," Wiseman said. "Tonight just gives us momentum."
The Warriors now head on a four-game road trip in which they will face the No. 8, No. 11 and No. 6 teams in the Eastern Conference, before hosting the third-seeded Milwaukee Bucks at Chase Center a week from Tuesday. To say this was a must-win would be an understatement.
Curry's return gave the Warriors their swag back. But now that he's back, they'll have to sustain it.