Barber: Never fear, all is well again with Warriors

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It’s amazing how things can change in a couple weeks. And then change again in another week. The Warriors’ season has shape-shifted twice now, so quickly that it’s almost like we imagined the weirdness in the middle.

At one point, the Warriors were blasting into a championship trajectory. They were 10-1 on Nov. 5, and were destroying opponents without working up much of a sweat. Stephen Curry looked like an NBA most valuable player again. Coach Steve Kerr was telling his players to relax and enjoy the ride, and they were listening.

Then Curry strained his groin while playing the Bucks on Nov. 8, and things went southerly, as they tend to when the diminutive superstar is out. And then they got worse. Much worse. At Los Angeles on Nov. 12, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green got in the most memorable shouting match since Archie Bunker went at it with Meathead, and it looked as though the Warriors were coming apart at the seams.

Durant seemed genuinely hurt by whatever it was that Green said to him in the Clippers game. Green seemed predictably miffed at the one-game suspension the Warriors slapped him with. And before you knew it, Golden State was spiraling into the first four-game losing streak of Kerr’s tenure.

That was less than a week ago. I know, it feels like a year or so, but the last of those four losses was last Wednesday.

Now? Everything is hummingbirds and orange blossoms again.

The Warriors weren’t at their best against the Orlando Magic on Tuesday night at Oracle Arena. But they were at their most exciting, erasing a 17-point halftime deficit, taking the lead for good with 1:19 left on a Kevin Durant finger roll and holding off the Magic down the stretch to preserve a 116-110 win.

That’s three fairly handsome wins in a row to launch the next road trip, and the situation may get decidedly better in short order. Curry might play as early as Thursday, and Green may follow soon after.

Monday’s win, against a solid young Orlando team, felt like absolution. It was the water that cleansed the Warriors after all that nasty drama.

“Yeah. I mean, I thought tonight was one of the best games of the year,” Kerr said. “You could feel the energy in the crowd, you could feel the competitive desire from our players, and you could feel it from the guys on the bench. Just huge energy. Yeah, we’ve moved on from that stuff.”

Curry practiced behind a drawn curtain Monday morning, which usually signals that he’s in the advanced stages of rehab. He shot around during pregame warmups that night, and was moving with agility as he accepted passes from assistant coach Bruce Fraser. Kerr confirmed that Curry will practice in full Tuesday and Wednesday. If nothing goes wrong on the court — and if people stop running into him on Highway 24 — the two-time MVP is likely to suit up against the soaring Raptors in Toronto on Thursday.

Green, who is nursing a toe injury, is more of a question mark. He is officially listed as day to day. But you’d have to figure he’ll be back soon.

“Draymond, his intensity, you can tell just looking at him on the bench, he’s like a caged animal over there,” Durant said. “So can’t wait to have him back.”

That says nothing of DeMarcus Cousins, the Warriors’ shiny new toy. The All-Star center reportedly is ahead of schedule in his Achilles’ rehab and agitating to get back into action. The smart money says he’ll be playing for the Warriors before the new year.

Even without Cousins, though, this team is ready to flip into cruise control again. Durant looks happier, as if the weight has left his shoulders. He was brilliant against the Magic, with 49 points on 16-of-33 shooting, plus a couple of important blocks on defense. And Klay Thompson, mired in a prolonged slump early in the year (even as the Warriors were winning nightly), continued his hot hand with a blistering 19-point fourth quarter.

Durant is convinced the worst is behind his team, and that great things will happen when the band is back together.

“You have Steph and Dray back in there, I mean, definitely two guys who are champions, All-Stars, you name it,” he said. “Definitely miss Steph’s creativity out there, his flow, his energy, his passion for the game.”

And at the risk of trading in clichés, it’s entirely possible that the Warriors will emerge stronger from their morass. For one thing, the absence of Curry and Green have presented opportunities to players who hadn’t begun to click yet — especially backup point guard Quinn Cook.

“I thought Quinn is doing a great job filling in,” Durant said. “Obviously, Quinn is learning a lot from Steph while being here, and I think a lot of that rubbed off on Quinn while he’s in the starting lineup. He’s playing with confidence the same way Steph plays with confidence, and we need that at that point guard position. And it’s only gonna be good for our team when Steph gets back, and Quinn still has that confidence coming off the bench for us, and I think that’s gonna be key.”

Durant added: “The guys that step up while those guys have been out, you’ve gotta give ’em a lot of credit. Playing extremely hard every minute they’re on the floor. It’s only gonna give us confidence as a bunch as we move forward.”

And then there is the larger issue. A lot was simmering beneath the surface before Green blew up at Durant and Durant blew up right back. Maybe the Warriors had to get that stuff out of their systems. Maybe the tension has been released. Maybe they will be a better team for it.

Or, you know, perhaps everything will go to hell again in the next week or so. It has been that sort of season, to our curiosity and delight.

You can reach columnist Phil Barber at 707-521-5263 or Follow him on Twitter: @Skinny_Post.

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