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Analysis: Thompson, Cousins lead Warriors to 121-110 win over Charlotte Hornets

With Curry struggling, Thompson and Cousins carry the scoring load as the Warriors open this four-game road trip with a win.

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Charlotte Hornets Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

After a frustrating loss to the Houston Rockets, the Warriors headed out on the road for a four-game trip to face off against some Eastern Conference foes. They opened up this road trip on Monday evening in Charlotte, facing off against the Hornets. For three of the Warriors, his would be their second trip to Charlotte in two weeks, as this season’s All-Star Game was played in the Queen City.

The Warriors didn’t play perfectly in this game, struggling to stay focused and take care of business. But it also always felt like the Warriors were in control. The Warriors took the lead for good late in the first quarter and never gave it back, earning the 121-110 road win over the Hornets.

Thompson takes his turn

Stephen Curry struggled on Monday evening, which was surprised as he was playing in front of a Charlotte crowd he usually regales with eye-opening performances, Curry scored just 16 points against the Hornets, going 4/14 from three-point range. With Curry struggling in front of his hometown crowd, the Warriors were going to need someone to knock down some shots to prevent the Warriors from letting this road game slip through their fingers.

Enter Klay Thompson.

Thompson provided the Warriors with most of their offense on Monday night. Thompson was the Warriors’ high scorer against the Hornets as he poured in 26 points, going 3/5 from long distance. One interesting wrinkle in Thompson’s stat line against the Hornets were his five assists, coming just one game after handing out six assists in Saturday night’s loss to the Rockets. For a player like Thompson, who averages slightly over two assists per game for his career, a five-assist game is something that catches the eye.

It wasn’t one of those jaw-dropping or record-setting Thompson performances, it was much more workman-like. But the Warriors needed him to make shots and provide offense with Curry scuffling a bit and the Warriors’ All-Star shooting guard gave them exactly that.

Even though Curry didn’t give an especially good performance, he did cap the game with (of course) the most difficult and ridiculous shot he attempted all night. So you knew he was going to make it.

A better game from Boogie

The first quarter of Monday’s game felt like a continuation of Saturday night’s game against the Houston Rockets for DeMarcus Cousins. Cousins struggled, missing shots and getting relentlessly attacked on defense in the pick-and-roll once again. That start to the game did not portend well for Cousins and it looked as though he was in for two consecutive rough performances.

But after that opening quarter, Cousins turned it around in a notable way. In the final three quarters of the game, Cousins scored 20 of his 24 points and grabbed 10 of his 11 offensive rebounds. Cousins’ 24 points against the Hornets were the most he’s scored as a member of the Warriors.

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Charlotte Hornets
There’s still room for improvement, but Cousins turned in one of his best performances in a Warriors uniform against the Hornets.
Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

But it wasn’t just that Cousins was scoring. When he was on the court, his presence wasn’t taking away points from the Warriors, which he had been doing more often than not recently. The Warriors’ big man finished the game with a plus/minus of +10. After posted a negative plus/minus in four of the past five games, Cousins finally had a more comprehensively positive impact on a game in this matchup against the Hornets.

Cousins’ defense was still on the shaky side but he still finished the game with three blocks, his defense getting better throughout the game. Cousins’ play around the basket was much better on Monday evening. There weren’t as many groan-inducing misses at the basket like one saw on Saturday night and, save for that opening frame, he looked more like the offensive force we’d grown accustomed to seeing in Sacramento and New Orleans.

There’s still work to be done, especially on defense. Cousins will never be an elite defensive big man, but he needs to do better than allowing Cody Zeller to score a career-high 28 points against him.

That said, it’s still early in the process for Cousins as he totally gets back into game shape. His play in the final three quarters of this game though were glimpses of how good he can play and what he can bring to this Warriors team.

KD and Draymond do the rest

Kevin Durant, along with Thompson and Cousins, was instrumental to the Warriors securing this road win. Durant scored 20 points against the Hornets. Many of Durant’s points came at crucial moments in the game, when the Hornets would go on a run and cut a double-digit Warriors lead in half.

But the most impressive shot he hit came at the end of the first quarter as Durant drilled this fade-away three-point shot in the closing second of the opening frame.

While Durant perfectly complemented Thompson and Cousins’ offensive production, Draymond Green did a little bit of everything else against the Hornets. After spraining his ankle against the Rockets, a moment that had more than a few Warriors fans concerned, Green didn’t miss a game and was still in the lineup on Monday evening. Green contributed 14 points of his own. But perhaps even more important than his points, Green also tallied 10 assists and 8 rebounds, just two shy of the all-important triple-double.

Turnovers help and hurt the Hornets

Though the Warriors were in control for essentially the entire game, they were unable to pull away from the Hornets and turn the game into a blowout. A big reason for that was, surprise surprise, turnovers. The Warriors turned the ball over 15 times against the Hornets, which led to 20 points for the home team. Green led the Warriors with 6 turnovers while Curry had 4 of his own. Those turnovers were key to many of the runs the Hornets would go on, almost always coming after the Warriors looked ready to run past the Hornets and turn the rest of the game into a mere formality.

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Charlotte Hornets
The Warriors lost their focus at times, and Cody Zeller was more than ready to take advantage of those miscues, but in the end the Warriors still picked up the comfortable win.
Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

However, in the final minutes of the game, it was the Hornets who turned the ball over and assured the Warriors of a win. 4 of the Hornets’ 12 turnovers came in the final three minutes of the game. Had the Hornets been able to avoid those late-game turnovers, they might have been able to make this a game that came down to the closing seconds. Instead, the Warriors were able to keep the Hornets at bay and pick up the double-digit win.

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