The Warriors began their new, Stephen Curry-less reality (for the next three months at least) on Friday night as they welcomed the San Antonio Spurs to Chase Center. Once again, the Warriors came up short in a 127-110 loss but the game was closer than that final score indicates. There were 9 lead changes and 8 ties on Friday night as the Warriors played well (or at least better than they have been playing) for much of the first three quarters before the Spurs pulled away in the fourth.
Change in offense helps Russell, Warriors
In his first game as the unquestioned centerpiece of the Warriors’ offensive gameplan, D’Angelo Russell showed why he’s viewed as one of the more promising young players in the league. Russell scored 30 points against the Spurs, his first time scoring 30+ points for the Warriors and the 22nd time in his career he’s done so. Russell also handed out 8 assists in his 33 minutes of action.
Russell scored 14 of his 30 points in the first quarter as the Warriors avoided falling behind big early, something they’ve done quite a few times this season. Three of those first-quarter points came on this shot from beyond the arc after Russell used a nifty move to get open.
D-Lo goin’ behind the back to the pic.twitter.com/Q0V4ykDE98— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) November 2, 2019
The Warriors offense was run by Russell, the ball was in his hands most of the time he was on the court as Steve Kerr steered the game plan away from the more pass-heavy system he prefers to something a little less complex. The Warriors also ran more pick-and-roll action for Russell and other players and used more high ball screens. After having an offense that tended to stagnate and grind to a halt in three of the first four games of the season, the Warriors looked much improved on that end against the Spurs.
This simplified game plan also helped Jordan Poole and Alec Burks get going and have nice games of their own. Poole scored 20 points in the loss, going 4/7 from three-point range. Those 20 points were a career-high for the rookie from Michigan and it’s the second time this season that Poole has scored in double digits.
It’s clear that Poole has the green light and is not afraid to shoot, which resulted in makes like this three-pointer in the second quarter.
JP looking confident pic.twitter.com/tFMsIXg7Kp— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) November 2, 2019
Burks missed the first three games of the 2019-20 season but, after a rough start in Wednesday night’s loss to the Phoenix Suns, showed why the Warriors chose to sign him this past off-season against the Spurs. Coming off the bench, Burks scored 14 points while going 2/2 from three-point range against the Spurs, beating the buzzer at the end of the third quarter to convert this make from beyond the arc.
Burks beats the clock pic.twitter.com/J5GVdr3QgI— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) November 2, 2019
Though the result wasn’t what the Warriors nor their fans wanted, on Friday night one saw both the potential of players like Poole and Burks and the kind of play one expects from a player like Russell. With a little more time, the play of these players in a slightly augmented offensive system will start to have an effect on the win column.
Dubs dominated on the offensive glass
While the Warriors looked better offensively against the Spurs, keeping things close for the first three quarters of the game, their defense—specifically their rebounding— failed them and allowed the Spurs to get the comfortable win.
While players like Russell and Poole made considerable contributions on the offensive end, they were frequently getting lost on defense, allowing open looks for Spurs players and preventing the Warriors from putting together big runs. There were bright spots defensively for the Warriors as both Eric Paschall and Omari Spellman looked good defensively, but the team’s defensive effort left a great deal to be desired.
The Spurs pulled down 16 offensive rebounds on Friday night, resulting in 23 second-chance points (compare that to the Warriors and their 8 second-chance points in the game). With a depleted roster filled with very young players and marginal NBA talents, defense is going to be a constant struggle for the Warriors this entire season. Stops are going to be hard to come by. But on Friday night, even when the Warriors got stops, they gave up an offensive rebound that resulted in another shot attempt that the Spurs converted.
The psychological effect of playing good defense and forcing the opponent to miss only to watch the opponent get the ball right back and have another chance to score cannot be overstated. Also, with how suspect this Warriors defense is, they have to capitalize any time they can get a stop. They didn’t do that against the Spurs and it’s what cost them the game.
Mills and Aldridge finish the job
As he seems to do whenever he plays the Warriors, Patty Mills played exceedingly well. Coming off the Spurs bench, Mills scored a game-high 31 points in minutes on Friday night going 6/9 from three-point range. Mills gave the Spurs a big lift in the second quarter, scoring 8 points in the second frame to make sure that the Spurs went into halftime with a two-point advantage.
In the second half, LaMarcus Aldridge took over as the Spurs began to pull away from the Warriors to earn the comfortable victory. Aldridge scored 14 of his 22 points in the second half as the Warriors, especially without Kevon Looney, could not slow down the Spurs’ big man.
The Warriors were able to keep DeMar DeRozan relatively quiet as he scored 13 points on 4/7 shooting, but they couldn’t slow down Mills in the first half and then Aldridge picked up his game in the second to secure a victory for the visiting Spurs.