Fresh off defeating the Cavaliers in Cleveland on Monday night, the Warriors traveled to Chicago to play a Bulls’ team that started the season horrendously, but has been playing better basketball of late.
Between the improvement in the Bulls, and with both Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala sitting the game out, one did not expect a repeat of the 49-point defeat the Warriors handed them in Oakland back in November.
Though the Warriors tried to give away the game through some sloppy play, another outstanding third quarter gave the Warriors enough separation to get the 119-112 road victory.
The Splash Brothers light up the United Center
Leading the way for the Warriors against the Bulls was Klay Thompson, who scored a season-high 38 points against the Bulls. Thompson’s last few games have been (relatively) quiet for him in terms of his scoring, but the shooting guard was able to catch fire in Chicago.
Twenty-one of Thompson’s 38 points came from three-point range. Early in the third quarter, Thompson made three shots from long distance to turn a three-point Bulls’ lead at halftime into a two-point advantage for the Warriors.
Thompson also attempted nine free throws against the Bulls and made seven of them, both of which were season highs for him. Getting to the free-throw line more often is one way that Thompson, who averages a little over one free-throw attempt per game, could improve his game. When Thompson gets to the line, that’s when he has his best games and it also usually results in a Warriors’ victory.
Thompson’s fellow Splash Brother, Stephen Curry, also put in an impressive performance against the Bulls. Curry scored 30 points on Wednesday night, with 18 of those points coming from three-point range. Half of Curry’s six made three-pointers came in the same third quarter, which saw Thompson get hot as well.
These guys are too good.— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) January 18, 2018
Splash Brothers now a combined 12-of-19 from 3-point range so far tonight pic.twitter.com/MppgI5zs2r
Led by Thompson and Curry, the Warriors used a 32-12 third quarter to seize control of the game, though the squad would make it interesting and let the Bulls back into the game in the fourth quarter. Outside of a relatively quiet 19 points from Kevin Durant, Curry and Thompson were the only real offensive options for the Warriors. But the best backcourt in the league was more than up to the challenge of carrying the Warriors to a victory.
One thing that can slow the Warriors: turnovers due to careless play
On Wednesday night, the Warriors turned the ball over 15 times, which resulted in 27 points for the Bulls. Most of these turnovers were the result of lazy or careless passing, as the Bulls are not a particularly good defensive team or one that forces many steals. Curry and Thompson, with six and three turnovers, respectively, were the biggest perpetrators and it provided their games with a few blemishes on an otherwise spectacular night for both players.
The Warriors’ propensity to turn the ball over and be generally careless was on display at the end of the first quarter. The Warriors, who had led by as much as 10 in that first frame, gave it all back by allowing the Bulls to score seven-straight points, to take a lead into the second quarter.
How Not To End A Quarter, By The Golden State Warriors pic.twitter.com/AFl315vpik— BBALLBREAKDOWN (@bballbreakdown) January 18, 2018
It was understandable that the Warriors might be lacking in energy, however. The team just played the Cavaliers, the team they’ve faced in the previous three NBA Finals, and are traveling to Houston to play their inter-conference rival, the Houston Rockets, on Saturday.
Quite a few people noted the “trap game” potential of the matchup against the Bulls, and the Warriors tried mighty hard to give this one up. But with Curry and Thompson scoring, and Durant turning in a Green-esque stat line (8 rebounds and 7 assists to go with his 19 points), the Warriors’ talent prevailed to secure the victory.
Nasty injuries bookend a very peculiar game
The game got off to an upsetting start as Jordan Bell, getting the start with Green sitting out, landed awkwardly on his left leg, falling to the ground and needing to be wheeled off of the court. The team announced that the rookie sprained his left ankle, that x-rays were negative, and that he would undergo an MRI some time on Thursday. Bell’s injury started the game on a sour note as the rookie had become not only a fan favorite but also a valuable part of the Warriors’ rotation.
Luckily, Kevon Looney was ready to step in and cover the minutes Bell would have played. Playing a career-high 30 minutes, Looney did not put up particularly great stats but was an astonishing +33, playing the same solid defense he displayed against the Rockets.
Kevon Looney with a great contest on Markkanen's jumper (misses it), then Looney drives past Markkanen and finishes. Great sequence pic.twitter.com/RLSaNBBoUI— Drew Shiller (@DrewShiller) January 18, 2018
Golden State was not the only team that had to deal with a shocking injury on Wednesday night. With a little under three minutes left in the game, the Bulls’ Kris Dunn went up for a dunk and fell very awkwardly, causing him to land on his face.
Warriors bumbling the Bulls back into the game late. Turnover leads to runout Kris Dunn dunk. Dunn holds onto rim too long, flies off, faceplants on ground. He's hurt. Strange night in Chicago.— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) January 18, 2018
The fall, which knocked out teeth, causing Dunn to bleed from his mouth, forced him to leave the game and he did not return. After the game, the Bulls reported that Dunn chipped and dislocated two teeth but did not exhibit any concussion symptoms and would be re-evaluated tomorrow. Hopefully both players will recover as quickly as they can and get back into the lineup. But both injuries cast a pall over the game and contributed to a night of basketball that, between the turnovers and the injuries, felt very odd.
With Green absent, Mirotic and Lopez have big nights
With Green and Iguodala both missing Wednesday night’s game, the Warriors’ effort on defense was lacking. This allowed the Bulls, a team that usually scores around 103 points per game, to score 112. Perhaps most egregious were the 40 points that the Bulls were able to score in the first quarter, allowing them to keep the score close in the first half and lead, at one point, by as many as 11 points.
The absence of two of their best and smartest defenders allowed Nikola Mirotic to get going and score 24 points, his most since playing against the Indiana Pacers on Dec. 29th. Robin Lopez was also able to take advantage of the Warriors’ short-handedness, scoring 16 points as the Warriors did not have an answer for the Bulls’ pick-and-roll in the first half.
The Bulls’ 56 points in the paint allowed them to stay in this game as the Warriors did not have much in the way of an answer for their big men with Green absent.
While they played well in the paint, the Bulls’ outside shooting doomed them against the Warriors. As a team, the Bulls shot just 25.6% from beyond the arc, going just 4-for-20 in the second half from three-point range. Lauri Markkanen, who has been shooting above 50% in the month of January, shot 28.6% from long distance on Wednesday night and ended the game with just 11 points.
Though Mirotic and Lopez played well, the Bulls had no answer for the kind of offensive firepower that Curry and Thompson provided. The dominance of the Splash Brothers allowed the Warriors to overcome the subpar defensive effort, turnovers and occasional careless play to earn the team a 14th-straight road victory. Golden State will go for its 15th-straight road win on Saturday night, against the Rockets.
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