Last night, the Golden State Warriors defeated the Los Angeles Lakers (123-112) for the second time this preseason. The Lakers managed to get within six points of the lead in the fourth quarter, but the game never felt like it was in doubt as the Warriors controlled the game from the tip-off. The Warriors had three distinct groups last night: the starters, the bench, and the DNPs. Let’s take a look at each group.
Steve Kerr, in preparation for the regular season, ramped up his starters’ minutes with Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green all playing over 30 minutes in this preseason contest.
Curry was the high man with 32 points on 11-of-19 shooting, going 6-of-12 on threes. Durant followed close behind with 27 points on 10-of-19 shooting, but he missed all three of his three-point attempts.
The starters amassed 28 assists and went for a combined 19-of-19 from the charity stripe. There were a few sloppy moments, but overall the players looked like they were in mid-season form. Admittedly, this could be due to the fact they were playing a team that was definitely playing some preseason defense.
On a night where Curry and Durant provided plenty of highlights, it was Thompson who was particularly impressive. He played a great all-around game with 19 points, 8 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks. You gotta hand it to him — he hasn’t sacrificed sh*t.
Kevon Looney and JaVale McGee were the only two bench players to finish with a positive plus/minus. Kerr went to Looney pretty early on in the game and Looney capitalized on his opportunity. He was the recipient of a number of nifty passes from the starters and showed he can finish strong.
It’s surprising to see that Looney’s stat-line shows zero rebounds because he looked really active on the glass during the game, especially on the offensive end, using his long arms to poke away rebounds from the Lakers.
With more experience, Looney has the potential to be a great rebounder, which is exactly what he should concentrate on if he wants to carve out some meaningful minutes on this team.
As for McGee, he entered the game late and immediately mishandled the ball his first few touches. But the truth is, some players just make fans cheer harder when they succeed. An example would be the Doc Rivers-era Celtics games where fans would go crazy when Brian Scalabrine would make a 3-pointer late in a meaningless game. The cheer would be just as loud as one for a Kevin Garnett block or a Paul Pierce jumper. It is undeniable that McGee is one of those players.
During one stretch, he got the pro-Warriors crowd going with some great put-back dunks and a difficult reverse lay-up. He was also able to throw down a spectacular alley-oop dunk, courtesy of Thompson, that was reminiscent of Thompson’s rapport with DeAndre Jordan during the 2016 Olympics. For all his Shaqtin’ a foolin’ around, McGee could be a spark off the bench to jump start the team and the crowd.
One concerning note is that McGee picked up 4 personal fouls in just seven minutes of play. Given the dearth of front-court players on the Warriors, if McGee makes the squad he’s going to have to learn how to stay out of foul trouble.
Aside from Elliot Williams, who did not play due to recent injury, five other players were listed as DNP — coach’s decision. It’s safe to say that of those five, rookie Damian Jones and returning players James Michael McAdoo and Anderson Varejao will have a spot on the team.
Barring an injury to McGee, this likely leaves Williams, Phil Pressey and Cameron Jones out in the cold. This isn’t too surprising as the chatter has been that McGee is going to capture that last spot and last night’s preseason game seems to support this theory.
It will be interesting to see if McGee climbs above McAdoo and Varejao on the front-court depth chart — if he hasn’t already. Both McAdoo and Varejao rely on hustle and activity to impact the game. McGee does too but he’s bigger and more athletic than McAdoo and Varejao.
The Warriors face the Portland Trailblazers on Friday to finish of the preseason and then it’s off to the races.
Are we there yet?