Saturday, March 18, 2017

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Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) goes up for a shot over Orlando Magic’s Elfrid Payton during their NBA clash on Thursday.AP

OAKLAND – A tighter defense that gave Orlando trouble all night and another early scoring outburst from Klay Thompson have the Warriors feeling a lot better about their position in the West.

A much-welcomed blowout of the Magic certainly helped, too, especially following three weeks of inconsistencies and a handful of surprising losses.

Thompson scored 21 of his 29 points in the first quarter and the Golden State cruised past the Orlando Magic 122-92 on Thursday night.

”To have a game like that always helps, not confidence-wise but just to kind of try and get back in a rhythm,” said Draymond Green, who had nine points and 11 rebounds.

Stephen Curry added 25 points and nine assists after appearing to injure his right foot in the opening minutes, Andre Iguodala scored 14 and Zaza Pachulia had 10 points and 10 rebounds to help the Warriors improve to an NBA-best 54-14 and clinch their third straight Pacific Division title for the first time in franchise history.

Thompson, who owns the NBA record for most points in one quarter with 37 against Sacramento on Jan. 23, 2015, was almost perfect in the opening period against Orlando. By comparison, the entire Magic team made only nine buckets in the first quarter.

”We were able to get out in transition just from our stops,” Thompson said. ”It definitely helps when you make four or five in a row. You feel like every shot’s going to go in.”

Thompson’s fast start began not long after Curry limped off the court and into the Warriors’ locker room early in the first quarter after he stepped on the foot of Elfrid Payton.

The reigning two-time MVP returned a short time later and was greeted by a rousing ovation from the Oracle crowd. Curry then promptly threw an inbounds pass to Thompson for an easy bucket that put the Warriors up by double digits.

”Tweaked his ankle,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr said. ”He’s fine.” (AP)