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Jordan Poole and Gary Payton II shine in Warriors 114-92 win over Hornets

With Stephen Curry under the weather, the Golden State Warriors relied on a unique rotation to pull out the victory.

Charlotte Hornets v Golden State Warriors Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

The Golden State Warriors recorded their sixth win of the season in a 114-92 victory over the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday. The Hornets have been one of the most exciting teams in this young NBA season, but Golden State suffocated their half-court offense and limited their opportunities in transition.

Things got off to a slow start, with both teams combining to miss 13 of their first 18 shots from the field. Yet, one Warrior managed to carry the load. Jordan Poole knocked in an early three and scored the team’s first eight points, setting the stage for his best game of the season.

Still, even with Poole’s solid start, the first quarter was defined by lackluster offense. Both teams struggled, but the tone was set by the Warriors. Charlotte’s offensive inefficiency would continue all night, but Golden State’s shortcomings were self-inflicted.

Stephen Curry committed three turnovers in the first six minutes of regulation, and he was far from the only culprit. The Warriors committed seven turnovers in the first quarter, and for that reason, the Hornets led 26-21 despite shooting 35.7% from the field. Between offensive rebounds and turnovers, Charlotte had nine more shot attempts than the Warriors in the first quarter.

Warriors head coach Steve Kerr changed up his rotation on Wednesday, removing Curry with three minutes left in the first. As the quarter came to a close, reserves Gary Payton II and Nemanja Bjelica offered a spark. Bjelica knocked in a pair of buckets while Payton recorded a steal and put his stamp on the night.

With Curry resting at the end of the first quarter, he started the second alongside Damion Lee, Andre Igoudala, Otto Porter Jr., and Juan Toscano-Anderson in the second unit. Curry scored his first points of the game, but the unit’s offensive success was counteracted by Hornets wing Miles Bridges, who scored 21 points in the first half. Luckily for the Warriors, they had an answer.

Despite sitting for half the quarter, Poole picked up where he left off when he reentered, making a three in his first possession back on the floor.

Poole scored 12 points in the second quarter and had 22 points in the first half on 8-for-11 shooting (6-for-9 from three). With his outside shot falling for the first time this season, Poole was unstoppable. With two minutes left in the half, the Hornets showed him the ultimate respect by forcing the ball out of his hands with a double team.

The Warriors led 53-52 after one of their strangest halves of the season. Poole carried them to 12-of-25 shooting from three but was also Golden State’s only consistent offensive weapon. At the same time, the Hornets were held to 39.2% from the field (30.0% from three) but were within one point because of second-chance opportunities and 10 Dubs turnovers.

Things were fairly stagnant early in the third quarter. Bridges cooled down offensively, and the Warriors starters struggled to generate offense. Halfway through the quarter, though, Kerr once again brought Curry to the bench, and Payton returned. He already had his signature highlight, dunking over Kelly Oubre, but he was far from done making an impact.

Payton’s impressive defensive night continued, but he also scored six points towards the end of the quarter and helped extend the Warriors lead to 13 heading into the fourth. Curry started the final quarter, but a hot shooting stretch from Charlotte quickly cut the lead to seven. Kerr responded by putting Poole and Payton back on the floor to help finish the game strong.

Curry ended the night with just 15 points, but 10 came in the final quarter. Kerr explained that the Golden State star has been under the weather over the past few days and was likely playing at less than 100%. While Kerr did not elaborate on whether the altered rotation had to do with his physical status, it’s worth wondering if Curry could see a more standard deployment going forward.

When the Dubs rebuilt their lead back to 11, Poole found Andrew Wiggins for a dunk and picked up a ball knocked loose by Payton for an uncontested layup on back-to-back possessions, stretching the Warriors lead to 15 with three minutes left in regulation.

Kerr removed Payton to a standing ovation from the Chase Center crowd less than a minute later. Payton has already enthralled the fanbase with high-energy play. While he was lauded for his defensive prowess, Payton’s abilities truly look elite. It’s wild that not one other team in the NBA claimed him off waivers last month. After veterans like Curry and Draymond Green wanted the Warriors to give Avery Bradley the final roster spot, Payton is justifying the organization’s investment in his future.

Bridges and Gordon Hayward combined for 55 points on 20-for-37 shooting from the field, but the trio of Hornets primary ball handlers (LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier, and Ish Smith) could never find any offensive success. They finished a combined 8-of-27 from the field with just 21 points and 11 turnovers. Payton was not the only player responsible for the guards’ offensive struggles, but he made the most direct impact. In just 17.5 minutes of playing time, he recorded three steals, blocked a shot, and forced other turnovers as well.

When asked about Payton’s performance in his postgame presser, Kerr acknowledged that Payton had earned consistent playing time. Quite the rise for the 15th player on the roster. #StrengthInNumbers is back in full force.

The Warriors are now tied with the Utah Jazz and Miami Heat for the best record in the NBA. It’s still early in the season, but it’s impossible to deny their impressive start.

We’ll see if they can keep their winning ways going when they host the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday, November 5th at 7:00 PM PST.