Usually when an NBA player gets the night off, they’re sitting on the bench in street clothes, cheering on their teammates. Last night, half of the Golden State Warriors roster wasn’t even in the same country as their teammates, as the Toronto Raptors blew out the Dubs 119-100. Jonathan Kuminga made his international travel count, scoring 26 points in his first career start as the Warriors fell to 3-2 on their road trip.
Steve Kerr was always planning to rest his stars on this road trip. To save the bother of a border crossing and its attendant COVID protocols, the team sent home Steph Curry, Draymond Green, Andrew Wiggins, Otto Porter Jr., and Andre Iguodala after Friday night’s win over the Boston Celtics. With Jordan Poole already in the health and safety protocols, that meant the team was without six of their top seven players in minutes per game, representing 69% of the team’s usual playing time.
The starting lineup was Chris Chiozza, Damion Lee, Juan Toscano Anderson, Kuminga, and the only remaining starter, Kevon Looney. And right out of the gate, things didn’t go well. Toronto hit seven of their first ten shots on the way to a 21-7 lead, helped out by four Warriors turnovers in the first six minutes. The lead was 20 by the six-minute mark of the second quarter, and Toronto would later lead by as much as 30.
What was the bright spot? Jonathan Kuminga’s offense.
He got to the rim at will against Toronto, even in the halfcourt offense. The surprising aspect of his 26-point performance was the outside shooting, as he went 4-6 from three-point range. That’s twice as many threes as he’d made in his entire career before last night. His shot looked as good as it ever has as a pro, displaying etter mechanics and consistency. He also threw some nice passes and did a good job of finding his teammates - he could have had more than his two assists. Of course, he also had six turnovers, not a shock against an opportunistic Raptors defense, and for a player who Bob Fitzgerald constantly reminds you is still only 19 years old.
Kuminga: "My game is driving to the hoop every time. If you give me a lot of space, I'm gone."— Joe Viray (@JoeVirayNBA) December 19, 2021
Toronto’s own rookie, Scottie Barnes, had 21 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists, showing the skills that made him the No. 4 overall pick. But the star for the Raptors was Fred VanVleet, who put up 27 points and 12 assists, including six three-pointers. He was a terror on the defensive end as well, picking up three steals and helping to harass the Warriors into 20 turnovers. Hey, it’s not just Steph and Draymond who can be reckless with the ball. Gary Trent Jr. led Toronto with four takeaways.
One night after his first career start in Boston, the Warriors’ other rookie, Moses Moody, played 25 minutes and scored five points. He only shot 2 of 8 from distance, but he did pull down 8 rebounds in his first extended playing time against his old high school teammate Barnes. (Moody played just two minutes in the first matchup with Toronto.) It was a rough outside shooting night overall, outside of Kuminga, with the team going just 11/36 from distance, 1/7 in the first quarter when the game quickly got out of control. They shot OK overall (47%) but the lack of threes against a hot-shooting Raptors team doomed their slim chances.
Gary Payton II continued to be a bright spot off the bench, with 13 points, 9 rebounds, and his usual two steals. The team was just -4 when he was on the court, a plus-minus that looks phenomenal considering what a rout this was. For the second straight game, Young Glove showed off his athleticism with a reverse dunk.
GP2 is 6'3" and just casually goes up for a reverse dunk like it's nothing SHEESH pic.twitter.com/A0LP5KNf8l— Joe Viray (@JoeVirayNBA) December 19, 2021
And then he had this dunk attempt sent back:
Clearly, bad things happen when Payton tries to dunk while actually facing the rim.
As for the other starters, Kevon Looney had 12 points, 10 in the first half, and became the only Warrior to play in all 30 games this season. Juan Toscano Anderson led the team with 10 boards and the Warriors actually out-rebounded the Raptors, though Kuminga only got one rebound in 36 minutes. Damion Lee shot a lot less than you’d expect after watching him gun in garbage time this year, scoring 14 points on 5/11 shooting. And Chris Chiozza had seven assists, though that was mitigated by his four turnovers and 1/7 shooting performance. VanVleet clearly enjoyed facing an opposing point guard who was shorter than him for once.
Precious Achiuwa, the prize of the Kyle Lowry sign-and-trade, scored 17 points off the bench for the Raptors. Aside from his block on Payton, Yuta Watanbe had a solid game, hitting two threes and nabbing two steals, finishing with 12 points. Justin Champagnie struggled off the bench but his name remained extremely fun to say.
The second game of a back-to-back and the fifth game of an East Coast road trip was already a likely “schedule loss” for Golden State even before they pulled everyone, so the outcome probably wasn’t in doubt even before the game began.They may be disappointed that their streak of holding opponents under 50% shooting ended, but other than that, this was a highly predictable loss that didn’t have a ton of takeaways.
Steve Kerr on the role the complications crossing the border played in sitting so many guys: "It feels like the whole league now is in a precarious spot. ... You factor in the difference in the rules here and how that might manifest itself long-term."— Connor Letourneau (@Con_Chron) December 18, 2021
The only shame is that Andrew Wiggins didn’t get to have his usual monster game against the NBA’s only Canadian team, but knowing he had Saturday night off, it looks like he showed his national pride by beating up on the Celtics Friday night instead.