After cruising to a 5-0 preseason, the Golden State Warriors were given a tough welcome to the regular season at Staples Center against the Los Angeles Lakers. Despite some early struggles, the Dubs stayed within striking distance all game and finally broke through in the fourth quarter and pulled out a 121-114 victory.
The Lakers made regular-season adjustments that gave Golden State fits early. The Lakers sagged off the Warriors non-shooters and physically challenged Golden State’s perimeter threats with their superior size. As a result, the Warriors consistent barrage of threes this preseason was absent in the first three quarters.
LeBron James and Anthony Davis were fantastic offensively, combining for 64 points on 27-47 shooting from the field, but the rest of the Lakers roster struggled mightily offensively. While they led for most of the game, they failed to take advantage of the Warriors offensive struggles.
Stephen Curry filled the stat sheet, finishing with his eighth-career triple-double, but was held to 5-21 shooting from the field. Jordan Poole’s preseason aggressiveness translated erratically. He missed several open shots throughout the first half, but midway through the third quarter, he began finding the bottom of the net. Then, he landed awkwardly on his right ankle and rushed back to the locker room.
Poole returned for the fourth quarter, though, and proved pivotal in the comeback effort.
With the Warriors trailing at the start of the fourth, the pressure was on Poole, Damion Lee, Andre Igoudala, Otto Porter Jr., and Nemanja Bjelica to keep the Dubs within striking distance while Curry sat. They did that and more. Led by Poole, Golden State stretched out an 18-6 run to start the quarter that put them in control.
Curry returned with a four-point lead after a flagrant foul by Bjelica opened up a small Lakers run, but within minutes the Dubs had built their lead to double-digits. The Lakers found little success without the ball in Davis or James’ hands, and the Warriors looked more relaxed no longer playing from behind.
Bjelica’s was easily the standout performer of the night. The offseason acquisition finished with a game-leading +20 plus/minus (no one else on either team was better than +10) and a valuable 15 points, 11 rebounds, and four assists on 6-7 shooting. While Bjelica’s floor-spacing ability as a shooter was the highlight of the preseason, he showed off his abilities as a ball-handler, passer, and rebounder throughout Tuesday’s game.
With performances like that, he could quickly challenge Kevon Looney for a spot in the starting lineup.
The Warriors persevered through a challenging season opener. After shooting and offensive explosions dominated the preseason, Golden State was forced to make do without their best weapon early.
However, even with fantastic performances from stars like James and Davis, the Warriors righted the ship long enough for their offense to finally get going. Their season opener was far from perfect, but after a season defined by the Dubs inability to succeed without an MVP-caliber performance from Curry, it’s notable that they found a way to pull out the unlikely victory.