The Golden State Warriors started off their four-game road trip with some bad news yesterday: an MRI confirmed that all star point guard D’Angelo Russell sprained his thumb and he will be out for at least two weeks. Given how the season has gone, the only surprise here is that the news wasn’t worse. Two-way contract player Ty Bowman will get the start at point guard in his absence.
This drops the Warriors down to nine active players — just one more than the league-mandated roster minimum of eight — and thrusts Draymond Green into the role of team leader. Can he forge a defensive identity with these young guys? They will have plenty of opportunity to figure it out on this road trip, which swings through New Orleans, Memphis, Dallas and, finally, Utah.
WHO: Golden State Warriors (2-11) at New Orleans Pelicans (3-8)
WHEN: Sunday November 17, 2019; 4:00 pm PST
WHERE: Smoothie King Arena — New Orleans
WATCH: NBC Sports Bay Area
Blog Buddy: As the Bird Writes
The Draymond Green Warriors
While Green isn’t going to lead the team in scoring every night, all these injuries have left him as the last veteran standing. Like most of his game though, Green’s leadership and impact are going to work, but it will be uniquely his own style.
Golden State has been looking for answers on the defensive end of the floor all season. Coming into the game, the team’s defensive efficiency was among the very worst of all time. But Saturday night against the Boston Celtics, the Warriors looked a little different.
As Anthony Slater wrote in The Athletic, the Warriors defense had a fundamentally different feel on Friday night. Coming in, the Celtics had the league’s best offensive rating, but the Warriors managed to hold them to just 105 points on 41 percent shooting. The Celtics, who came in with a 113.8 offensive rating, ended up with a 101.9 offensive rating for the game.
Kerr says this is the first game maybe all year he's thought the Warriors knew what they were doing defensively.— Sam Hustis (@SamHustis) November 16, 2019
"We just look organized. We looked tied together. Rotations were there. Box outs were there. We were fighting, and fighting for each other. And that's a great sign." pic.twitter.com/zAuEoE9Tqw
It’s a significant drop. But was it good defense from the Warriors, or just an off shooting night by Boston? Both Kerr and Green make the point to discuss habits rather than results, and Friday’s game at least gave us all a kernel of hope to cling to.
How much can Alec Burks give?
Burks’ 20 points on Friday came off 4-11 shooting on the night, but the Warriors are going to need more. Without Russell, both Burks and rookie Eric Paschall will be asked to chip in more scoring.
Kerr has a historic preference for bringing a “safety blanket” off the bench, and Burks may be turning into that guy. He played 30 minutes last night, and that was with D’Angelo Russell playing most of three quarters.
I honestly don’t know how well he’ll fare in a more featured role, but with the Warriors pretty much out of players, there really aren’t that many options here.
Are they the Pelicans, or the Pelicants?
Much like the Warriors, the Pelicans are struggling through injuries and their record is showing it. Though outsiders are likely aware of star rookie Zion Williamson’s knee surgery, Lonzo Ball and Derrick Favors have also both missed a fair amount of time.
But on paper, there’s still plenty here to give the Warriors fits. That defensive improvement we talked about earlier is going to need to show up against coach Alvin Gentry’s offense. With perennially under-rated Jrue Holiday (17 points, 7 assists and 5 rebounds per game) and Derrick Favors serving as the fulcrums, the Pelicans’ offense and leading scorer Brandon Ingram (25.9 points per game) are going to put stress on Golden State’s short-handed defense.
This is the team that gave the Warriors one of our two wins, so don’t expect to sneak up on them, either.
New Orleans is going to be coming into the second game of a back-to-back, and they’ve got a laundry list of their own injuries to contend with.
Pelicans players that are out tonight:— Will Guillory (@WillGuillory) November 17, 2019
— Brandon Ingram
— Lonzo Ball
— Jahlil Okafor
— Josh Hart
— JJ Redick
— Darius Miller
— Zion Williamson
The Pelicans have the 8th ranked offense and just knocked off the Los Angeles Clippers at home, but I still like the Warriors in this one. Green is going to mold these guys into a reasonable defensive unit, and it may as well happen right away, right?