After falling behind early in their season opener against the Lakers, the Golden State Warriors exploded out of the gate on Thursday in their home opener against the Los Angeles Clippers. Stephen Curry dropped in 25 first-quarter points on 9-of-9 shooting from the field (5-of-5 from three), and Golden State built an 18-point lead just under halfway through the second quarter.
Then, things began unraveling. The Warriors piled up turnovers against the Clippers physical defense and struggled to find an answer for Los Angeles’ smaller lineups. Despite playing Curry the final 7:43 of the first half, the Clippers surged forward, taking a 67-66 lead at the half.
The game continued back-and-forth for the rest of regulation. The Clippers built a nine-point lead, their largest of the game, early in the fourth quarter, but the Warriors’ second-unit put together an excellent run to tie the game just in time for Curry to reenter. After going dormant following his explosive first quarter, Curry reemerged, knocking in a pair of incredible threes in the final minutes that ensured the Warriors would finish victorious.
Here are five notes from the Warriors 115-113 victory.
Note #1: The Warriors turnover woes are back
Curry and backcourt mate Jordan Poole struggled to control their mistakes on Thursday, combining for 13 turnovers by themselves. While they were responsible for the bulk of the Warriors turnovers, they were far from the only players who cost their team possessions.
The Clippers played well defensively, but it was hard not to notice how their combination of speed and physicality seemed to make every Warriors player play a bit rushed. Great Clippers defense caused several turnovers, but there were numerous unforced errors where Warriors passers missed a wide-open target because they were trying to get ahead of the Clippers in transition.
Golden State’s offense was firing on all cylinders throughout the preseason, taking full advantage of the extra space defenders allowed in exhibition games. But, for obvious reasons, that space has evaporated in the regular season. As a result, multiple players are struggling to adjust to the different environment.
Head coach Steve Kerr is still experimenting with rotations, and that’s partially to blame. However, Golden State’s roster does lack a turnover-averse ball handler. The easiest knock on Curry throughout his career has been his tendency to get lazy with the ball, and the rest of the roster’s primary ball-handlers (Poole, Andre Igoudala, and Draymond Green) were not developed as point guards.
The Warriors have a lot of good passers, but only Curry and Poole can create space off the dribble. Golden State’s combination of floor-spacing and basketball IQ should be enough to generate open shots against most teams. Still, more athletic opponents, like the Clippers, will force a lot of Warriors turnovers.
Note #2: Jordan Poole’s shooting slump continues
Besides a solid offensive burst to the start of the fourth quarter of the Warriors season opener, Poole’s breakout preseason has been absent from Golden State’s first two games of official play. It’s easy to point to Poole’s seven turnovers on Thursday, but
Poole is a better scorer than a shooter, and he’s shown a tendency to deal with extended shooting slumps throughout his career. Even without his shot, the former first-round pick can create space off the dribble and has improved mightily as a finisher around the rim. However, everything Poole does seems to be a bit more forced when his shot is not falling.
Whether he’s playing well or poorly, Poole plays with a speed and aggressiveness that causes a lot of chaos. He’s always willing to pull the trigger on a deep three. Poole’s always going to try and break down his defender when there’s room to dribble. He’s always going to try and finish when he’s airborne in the paint. All of those scenarios have generated the best highlights and lowlights of his career.
Against the Clippers on Thursday, Poole was adding to the lowlights reel.
At this point, the Warriors should understand that these stretches come with Poole’s youth and style of play. Kerr understandably closed with Poole on the bench but still played the young combo guard for more than 25 minutes.
While Thompson continues rehabbing, the Warriors have no strong challenger for Poole’s role as starting shooting guard and leader of the second unit. A game like Thursday’s would have led to speculation that Poole was a bust in previous seasons. This year, it’s just a bad game that most expect him to bounce back from soon.
Note #3: Draymond Green was looking for his own shot
Green finished 2-of-9 from the free-throw line and still has not attempted a three in the regular season, but despite concerns about his shooting ability, Green was quite aggressive looking for his own shot inside.
His horrendous free-throw percentage will get the most attention, but Green had not attempted nine free-throws in a game since Game 3 of the 2019 Western Conference Finals against the Portland Trail Blazers. The Clippers never resorted to a hack-a-Green strategy. He got to the line because he was aggressive attacking the basket inside. He finished 4-of-4 on field-goal attempts in the paint.
— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) October 22, 2021
It’s reasonable for fans to be concerned about Green’s ability to contribute offensively if his shot continues deteriorating. Given how heavily the Warriors rely on his shot creation, though, he needs to be willing to attack opposing defenses inside to avoid forcing the rest of the team to play 4-on-5.
The results were mixed on Thursday, but Green racked up seven assists while also showing an offensive aggressiveness that was severely lacking last season. It is a positive sign that will hopefully continue as the season goes on.
Note #4: Speed is altering Otto Porter Jr’s impact
Like Poole, Otto Porter Jr. was fantastic throughout the preseason. However, many throughout Dubs Nation were quick to label him the steal of the offseason. There’s still time for that to be true. However, Porter has quickly shown why he’s far more limited than earlier in his career with the Wizards.
Porter was once a legitimate three, an above-average defender on the perimeter and against bigger wings down low. Today, Porter is unable to make much defensive impact. Offensively, Porter’s limited athleticism makes it difficult for him to create open space for himself off-ball, especially against the athletic wings he faced off against on Thursday.
Porter still looks like a valuable role player, just in perhaps a less visible way than the preseason may have led Dubs Nation to envision. Porter has always been a good rebounder, and he grabbed seven boards in 18 minutes last night, primarily playing a small-ball power forward. While he could not create much separation for himself, his shooting ability forced the Clippers to dedicate a defender to sticking with him behind the arc, creating excellent spacing for Golden State.
Against poor defensive teams, Porter will have some explosive offensive nights when Curry, perhaps Poole, and eventually Thompson distract young defenders and give Porter a barrage of wide-open attempts. However, his impact is going to be quieter against better defensive opponents. Porter has scored just nine points in the Warriors first two games, but his +14 plus/minus exemplifies how he’s still making positive contributions.
Note #5: Andre Igoudala looks young again
The 37-years young Andre Igoudala has played roughly 23 minutes (and closed) in each of the Warriors first two games of the regular season. Hopefully, Kerr will not have to rely so heavily on Igoudala throughout the entire season, but he has looked perfectly fine with the heavy workload so far. Igoudala limped off the court at one point in the third quarter when he slipped on a wet spot, but he looked fine once he returned in the fourth.
Igoudala has fit right into his old role in Golden State coming off the bench. He’s handled some of the Warriors toughest defensive assignments, is shooting open threes, and even has the ability to elevate again:
Defense ➡️ Offense— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) October 22, 2021
Bonus Note: Stephen Curry is quite the player
And as will probably become a standard component of these recaps, Stephen Curry’s greatness was not one of the biggest takeaways. Of course, it would not be a proper recap without a quick synopsis of Curry’s greatness.
On the same day he was named one of the 75 best players in NBA history, Curry showed precisely why he made the list. While he did not record another triple-double, he finished with 45 points and 10 rebounds on 16-of-25 shooting from the field and 8-of-13 from three.
Enjoy this beautiful basketball while you can.
Stephen Curry highlights?— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) October 22, 2021
Stephen Curry highlights. pic.twitter.com/c6cI4j8fp6