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Curry scores 31 in return as Warriors defeat Lakers 128-121 despite 40 points from James

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Stephen Curry belatedly celebrated his birthday by returning to the Golden State lineup and leading the Warriors to a much-needed victory.

Curry, who turned 36 on Thursday, scored 31 points after missing the last three games with a sprained right ankle as the Warriors beat the Los Angeles Lakers 128-121 on Saturday night in a pivotal Western Conference matchup.

“Steph is Steph. He’s just amazing,” coach Steve Kerr said. “He got off to a slow start, but he never worries and we never worry. What he does is open the floor for everyone else.”

The Warriors inched ahead of the Lakers by a percentage point into ninth place in the West after winning a game that dragged to the finish because of a pair of replay reviews — one that overturned an apparent 3-pointer by LeBron James — then a malfunctioning clock.

James had 40 points, nine assists and eight rebounds. D’Angelo Russell added 23 points and 13 assists for the Lakers, who have dropped their last two.

If the season ended Saturday, the Warriors would be hosting the Lakers in the play-in tournament, with the loser eliminated. Both teams are 3 1/2 games behind Phoenix for sixth place and escaping the play-in games, but time is running out.

“I was excited just to be back. You understand the ramifications down the stretch. Every game, especially against teams jumbled right there in the play-in, matters,” said Curry, who was 12 of 24 from the field along with six rebounds and five assists in 31 minutes.

Klay Thompson added 26 off the bench and Jonathan Kuminga 23 as the Warriors dominated play inside and regularly drove to the rim after Lakers All-Star center Anthony Davis did not play the final three periods after he was poked in the eye late in the first quarter.

Golden State took advantage of Davis’ injury as it dominated inside. The Warriors outrebounded the Lakers by six and had a 62-54 advantage in points in the paint.

Draymond Green was held to six points, but had 13 assists and 12 rebounds after he missed the last game due to back soreness.

Curry had six points during a 10-2 third-quarter run that gave the Warriors a 91-79 lead. Neither team had more than a seven-point lead until that point.

“They made some adjustments at halftime. In the third quarter we came out and missed some really good shots after getting some good looks. They played better than we did in the third,” James said.

Thompson had 21 points in the first half as the Warriors held a 67-66 lead at halftime. It was the second time this season Thompson has scored at least 20 in the first half.

James, who was 6 of 16 from the field in Wednesday night's loss at Sacramento, was 15 of 23 against the Warriors. He hit his first six shots, including three 3-pointers.

A 3-pointer by Thompson with 7:41 remaining in the fourth quarter gave the Warriors a 113-101 advantage, before the Lakers started to slowly work their way back.

James appeared to hit a 3-pointer with 2:07 remaining to get the Lakers within four, but during a stoppage in play 17 seconds later, the replay center determined James' foot was out of bounds and took the basket away.

The reversal ended any momentum for the Lakers. The Warriors put away the game when Curry stole the ball from James and passed it to Kuminga for a breakaway dunk to make it 126-117.

“We dig back into it, and make a big shot. Guys are scrambling, competing and then boom, everything just stops. So it just took the rhythm out of the game,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said.

UP NEXT

Warriors: Host the New York Knicks on Monday.

Lakers: Host the Atlanta Hawks on Monday.

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AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/nba