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What we learned during Warriors' win in Steph's return

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Steph Curry pulls up for shot vs. Bulls

Steph Curry returned to the Warriors, and the team responded by with some of its best basketball this month.

Riding Curry’s 32 points and solid second-half defense, the Warriors (23-24) snapped a four-game losing streak Monday night with a 116-102 win over the Chicago Bulls (19-26) at Chase Center.

All five Golden State starters scored in double figures, led by Curry but with Andrew Wiggins tossing in 21 points, Kelly Oubre Jr. 18, James Wiseman 12 (along with a career-high four blocks) and Draymond Green adding 11, as well as a game-high nine assists.

Here are three takeaways from a game in which the Warriors showed more fire than they have at any time over the past 10 days.

Return of Steph

He was knocked on his rump several times -- including once after drawing a charge -- landed awkwardly but upright a couple more times and his face couldn’t hide the discomfort.

But Curry played on, moving well enough and reacquainting himself with the concept of splashing.

He was aggressive early, hoisting 10 shots in the first quarter, in which he scored 13 points. Curry's 32 points came on 11-of-24 shooting from the field, including 6-of-14 beyond the arc. He added six assists and finished plus-16 over 30 minutes.

The Warriors obviously were energized by Curry’s presence, but there was plenty of visual proof that he is living with soreness. The tailbone injury might be healed, but the aches persist. And might for a while.

On the defense

The Warriors approached this game talking defense, defense, defense. With good reason. Abysmal defense was the primary factor in losing four of five without Curry. Another reason to focus on defense is that the Bulls have a surplus of shooters, led by All-Star guard Zach LaVine, whose 27.9 points per game entering Monday was sixth in the NBA.

 

Defending was a struggle early. Utilizing a distinct height and length advantage, Chicago shot 59.1 percent in the first quarter, 60 percent for the half and 52.4 percent for the game -- numbers similar to those posted by the Kings and Atlanta Hawks in beating the Warriors last week.

Not until the third quarter did Golden State’s defense appear, limiting Chicago to 25 points on 47.6 percent shooting but only 1-of-7 from distance. The Bulls shot 43.6 percent in the second half.

The defense got better, but it’s too soon to know if it’s back for good.

RELATED: Steph eager for additional chances with Wiseman in offense

Fourth-quarter bench

With the Warriors taking a 96-85 lead, their biggest of the game, after three quarters, the spotlight turned directly upon their second unit.

Could the reserves hold on until the regularly scheduled return of Curry and Co. midway through the fourth?

They did better than that, outscoring Chicago 15-8 over the first six-plus minutes. By the time Curry returned with 5:38 remaining -- playing only one more minute before he was replaced by Nico Mannion -- the Warriors were up 111-93.

Kent Bazemore, who had been in an ineffective stretch, was the catalyst off the bench, finding his shot and also making impressive defensive plays. He finished with nine points on 4-of-4 shooting, while also recording two steals and a block in 17 minutes.

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