(REUTERS) - Stephen Curry returned from a one-game absence to hit five three-pointers and total a game-high 26 points on Sunday (March 24) night, as the NBA champions Golden State Warriors shook off the embarrassment of a 35-point loss to the Dallas Mavericks one day earlier to turn back the Detroit Pistons 121-114 in Oakland, California.
The win, coupled with Denver's loss at Indiana earlier in the day, allowed the Warriors (50-23) to move a half-game ahead of the Nuggets (49-23) in the race for the best record in the Western Conference.
The 50-win season is the sixth straight for the Warriors, their fifth in a row under coach Steve Kerr.
In another game, Giannis Antetokounmpo collected 26 points and 10 rebounds as the hosts Milwaukee Bucks posted a 127-105 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
George Hill and Khris Middleton each had 17 points, and Brook Lopez scored all 14 of his points in the first half for the Bucks, who avenged a 107-102 setback to the Cavaliers on Wednesday (March 20).
Antetokounmpo sat out that contest with an ankle injury, but he made his presence felt on Sunday by shooting 11 for 16 from the floor and adding seven assists and four blocks.
Tony Snell finished with 12 points, but played sparingly after colliding with Cleveland's Cedi Osman midway into the third quarter.
Kevin Love highlighted his 20-point performance with four three-pointers and added 19 rebounds for the Cavaliers, who fell to 6-30 away from home.
Jordan Clarkson scored 19 points, and rookie Collin Sexton added 18 in the loss.
Detroit's (37-36) defeat dropped them from sixth to seventh in the Eastern Conference and further jumbled the five-team battle for the final three playoff spots. That duel also includes Brooklyn (38-36), Miami (36-37), Orlando (35-38) and Charlotte (34-39).
In a match-up between two teams playing the second night of a back-to-back, with both having lost on Saturday, the Warriors finally created some distance between themselves and the Pistons with a 9-0 burst late in the second period.
Andrew Bogut, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Kevon Looney had hoops in the run, which turned a 51-47 game into a 13-point Warriors lead.
Green beat the half-time horn with a three-pointer to push the lead to 63-49 at the break, and Golden State went on to lead by as many as 20 in the third period before the Pistons rallied.
Reserves Luke Kennard and Thon Maker had 10 points apiece as Detroit, which lost Saturday night at Portland, got within 112-103 with still 4:59 to play.
But Curry then connected on his fifth 3-pointer of the game, and the Warriors were able to hold the visitors at arm's length the rest of the way.
Curry shot 5-for-10 on three-pointers and Thompson 4-for-6, helping Golden State shoot 52 per cent on threes (13-for-25). Golden State shot 62.2 per cent overall.
Curry also found time for a team-high nine rebounds.
Thompson finished with 24 points, Green 14 and Looney 11 for the Warriors, while Kevin Durant recorded a 14-point, 11-assist double-double.
Blake Griffin had 24 points, and Andre Drummond had a 12-point, 11-rebound double-double for the Pistons, who shot 46.4 per cent overall and 12-for-31 (38.7 per cent) on three-pointers.
The Pistons had beaten the Warriors 111-102 in their earlier meeting in Detroit.
Kennard chipped in with 20 points off the bench for Detroit, while Ish Smith had 14, and Maker and Langston Galloway 12 apiece.
The night began with an on-court ceremony during which Pistons centre Zaza Pachulia received his 2018 championship ring from the Warriors.
Pachulia played 14 minutes off the bench, totalling four points, four assists and two rebounds.