I know what you’re thinking: “Oh no, what if he regrets his decision to shock the NBA world and take his talents to the Bay Area?”
But David West wants to play for Golden State, and the Warriors will soon figure it out.
In all seriousness, Kevin Durant lived up to the hype and put on a show, starting the game by hitting his first 4 shots and finishing with 27 points, 10 boards and 4 assists on 11-18 shooting from the field. Most of Durant’s compadres, however, didn’t do much to stop the bleeding against the incisive Spurs.
Missed shots aplenty
Durant’s seamless transition to an established Warriors team couldn’t make up for Golden State’s thin front line and inability to knock down open shots (Golden State went 7-33 from beyond the arc). The Spurs dominated their rival super team in every facet of the game, including second-chance points (24-4) and rebounding (55-35), which is a big concern for this Warriors team.
Meanwhile, everything was going right for the Spurs, and Kawhi Leonard has emerged as a viable MVP candidate after his first performance of the season in which he scored a career-high 35 points. Leonard’s partner in crime, LaMarcus Aldridge, added 26 points and 14 rebounds. Consequently, the alleged greatest team ever assembled found themselves playing catch-up for most of the game. Golden State went on runs, but their efforts to complete a comeback were rendered futile when they failed to play defense and box out on the other end of the court. Perhaps Draymond Green put it best, per ESPN:
"I mean, we gave up a lot of offensive rebounds," he said. "So when we'd be making a run, we get a stop, and then they get the offensive rebound. And it's like, if you don't close out the possession, the first stop is pointless. And it also stopped our fast break, which is the way we want to play."
Gaping hole at center
Sure, the Warriors missed shots they usually make, including a pair of wide-open layups for Klay Thompson and Green to start the game. But Golden State still managed to put up 100 points. Far more concerning, however, is their lack of rim protection and rebounding. It’s become cliché, but Andrew Bogut, one of the league’s best defensive centers, left a gaping hole in the middle for Golden State when he was released to make room for the Durant signing.
Green and Durant did well to crash the boards in the first 7 minutes of the game when they combined for 7 defensive rebounds. But it was only a matter of time before the Spurs’ big men laid a shellacking on the Warriors’ feeble front line. Bogut’s successor, Zaza Pachulia, and newcomer David West combined for a paltry 4 points and 5 rebounds.
San Antonio was ruthless in their exploitation of the Warriors’ glaring flaw as they assiduously attacked the offensive boards, creating extra possessions time and time again for easy baskets at the rim. Golden State’s bigs had no answer for Aldridge, who had a monstrous 8 offensive rebounds of his own.
Paltry bench production
Another area of concern for the Warriors heading into the season is bench production, which was pitiful in the first game of the season. The Spurs’ reserves outscored the Warriors’ second unit 54-16. Rookie Patrick McCaw impressed during the preseason and Ian Clark showed flashes of improvement. But they, along with Golden State’s two best bench players from last season — Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston — were nonexistent in last night’s game. They allowed Jonathan Simmons, an undrafted sophomore, to go off for 20 points in 28 minutes on 8 made field goals. The Warriors’ bench made only 7 shots out of 21 attempts and missed all 9 of their threes.
Onward and upward?
In the end, perhaps the 29-point annihilation by the Spurs will benefit Golden State in the long term. Marcus Thompson of Mercury News reported that “the Warriors were secretly hoping for a slow start to the season” to temper expectations and quell the hoopla that surrounded the team during their historic start to the 2015-16 season.
Now, the Warriors can focus on fundamentals and execution instead of just relying on the fact that they have David West — I mean, Kevin Durant.