SALT LAKE CITY -- Warriors point guard Stephen Curry had no shirt on and a grin plastered on his face, holding one finger in the air as the locker room TV showed his Carolina Panthers win.
He certainly seemed fine. Curry survived a cold start and a head injury scare to lead the Warriors to a 98-87 victory over Utah on Monday night. He finished with 22 points, eight assists, six rebounds, three steals and a "pretty nasty headache."
The Warriors improved to 8-3 for the first time since 1991. No doubt they left Utah a bit relieved. Their 28-point third-quarter lead was cut in half by the end of the period, turning a rout into a nervous second half. Then after they put the Jazz away early in the fourth quarter, their star point guard was lying face down on the hardwood.
With just under nine minutes left in the game, Curry drove the lane and was cut off. He was knocked down trying to pass out of the trap. While Curry was on the floor, Jazz forward Marvin Williams fell on top of Curry's head, smashing the left side of his face into the hardwood.
The Warriors star lay facedown on the court for several minutes, his teammates and coach Mark Jackson standing over him.
Eventually, Curry rolled onto his back, then sat up. He was helped up, then walked off under his own power to the locker room with head athletic trainer Johan Wang.
Curry said he never lost consciousness. But the gravity of head injuries wasn't lost on him.
"I haven't had any concussion episodes before," Curry said. "When I first hit, it rung my bell pretty hard. I made sure I took my time. I didn't want to put myself in jeopardy for the next game, especially with the lead we had. ... The way it felt, it was definitely pretty serious."
Curry left the game with the Warriors up 87-67. Minutes earlier, he led the charge that put the game away.
The Jazz entered the fourth quarter with all the momentum. Once down 68-40 early in the third quarter, Utah shaved 15 points off Golden State's lead and was down just 78-65 entering the final 12 minutes.
But Curry opened the fourth quarter by engineering a 7-0 run. He started with a pull-up jumper, then after a stop drove the lane to set up a Draymond Green layup. Then after another stop, he circled a high screen from Andrew Bogut and drilled a 3-pointer.
Just like that, the Warriors were up 85-65 and Utah's comeback bid was squelched.
It was a far cry from the offensive struggles early in the game. The Warriors shot just 32 percent in the first quarter. Curry and guard Klay Thompson were 1 of 12 combined for two points in the first quarter.
At one point, Curry was so miffed, he took a shot intentionally after the whistle and just stared at the rim with his hand in the air after it rolled out.
"I was little frustrated in the first quarter," Curry said. "David (Lee) was doing a great job of staying in my ear, giving me confidence."
Golden State's defense picked up the slack. Anchored by Bogut -- who finished with eight points, 13 rebounds and four blocks -- the Warriors shut down Utah's inside game. They held the Jazz to 39.5 percent shooting and dominated the boards (57-40).
Save for the third quarter, when Utah totaled 29 points on 12-of-23 shooting, the Warriors kept the Jazz bottled up and relying on outside shots. Utah was 15 for 47 from outside the paint, and that's with making seven 3-pointers.
"Our guards can get up in the ballhandlers," Bogut said, "knowing if something does break down, I'm going to try to block the shot and protect the rim. Guys are starting to get used to each other defensively. (Andre) Iguodala brings a whole other dimension to that as well. ... This team is as good as it wants to be as long as it buys in defensively."
An MRI revealed O'Neal sustained a bruised right knee and a minor right groin strain in Saturday's win over Utah. He didn't travel to Salt Lake City with the team and is officially day to day.
Jackson, who has been unhappy on a few occasions with how his reserves have handled garbage time, checked to see if the starters were still loose. Once they confirmed, he put them back in (with Harrison Barnes in place of Curry).
It seems Jackson's patience with the reserves is wearing thin.
"I'm not into embarrassing my guys," Jackson said. "But if you continue to put forth embarrassing effort, you leave me no choice."
Memphis (6-5) at Warriors (8-3), 7:30 p.m. CSNBA