It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt. And tonight, someone got hurt. The home team Orlando Magic.
For the most part, the Golden State Warriors played in a different gear, handling their talented but young opponent with relative ease in a 111-96 road victory. Despite playing the night before, the Warriors did not look tired at all: things were well under control by halftime.
Despite this, there is some room for concern with the second unit, which faltered between the late first and early second quarter, and again in garbage minutes. Not only did the offense devolve into a Marreese Speights 18-foot jumper attack for stretches, but the rim protection was also non-existent. Orlando’s young, athletic wings (Evan Fournier, Victor Oladipo) repeatedly attacked the rim with impunity. They were rebuffed in the first quarter by Andrew Bogut, but once he sat they found success against a soft Warriors’ second line.
That began to change when the Golden State lead evaporated in the early second quarter. With the Warriors trailing 37-36, Steve Kerr inserted Andrew Bogut in relief of Speights to join Livingston, Rush, Barnes and Iguodala, and the difference was like night-and-day. The Warriors jumped out to a 7-0 scoring run, as Orlando’s easy driving lanes fizzled. More importantly, the offense began to look exactly like the Triangle-Motion hybrid we’ve come to know and love.
For perhaps the first time this season, the Warriors looked like the Warriors with both Splash Brothers benched. The Orlando Magic are a beatable team, but it’s reassuring to finally see some second unit players get involved in the pass-happy offense. It’s easy to forget, but at their best, Bogut serves as this team’s de facto point guard. Tonight, when he entered the game the offense quickly pulled away from Orlando like they had a bad head cold. Just about every player on the court got open looks to score in rhythm, and if not for their bright blue Warriors jerseys, you would swear you were watching the San Antonio Spurs take someone apart.
And then, of course, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson entered the game. And that just about wrapped this one up before halftime.
Credit new head man Steve Kerr for trying new lineups as the game dictates. The Warriors had enjoyed riding the Mo Speights "game over" button for a week now, but with the Magic wings collapsing the defense, Kerr brought Bogut back early to stagger his and the Splash Brothers’ minutes. A new but very effective maneuver, the Warriors’ lead quickly swelled as high as 27 thereafter.
The Orlando Magic are not a great team yet, and they weren’t expected to win this ballgame. But with the Warriors proving so adaptable early this season, they’re showing themselves to be versatile in ways that few teams are. That has allowed the Warriors to continue to improve upon the best road and overall start in franchise history: 12-2 overall (7-1 on the road). In another positive sign, seven Warriors reached double-digit scoring despite the injury absence of scorers David Lee and Leandro Barbosa.
The Orlando Magic have a short turnaround, as they face the Indiana Pacers on Black Friday. The Golden State Warriors (12-2) will similarly be unable to camp out at Wal-Mart, as they will travel to Momma Curry’s house in Charlotte before playing the Bobcats (4-12) Friday at 4PM PST. With Curry having connected on 14-of-18 three-pointers in the past 24 hours, we could be in for a huge homecoming performance.
Additional notes: Harrison Barnes was at his best as a slashing, attacking wing tonight. He made his first six shots from the field before finishing with 16 points and 5 rebounds. Andrew Bogut posted another Jason Kidd line, contributing six points, seven assists, and 12 rebounds, all while stonewalling the Magic offense. Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala showed off improved shooting strokes, combining to go 4-of-9 from deep.