It was a tale of two halves for the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday. They played one of the worst offensive halves you’ll ever see a Steph Curry team play in the first half, then played one of their best defensive halves of the season in the second, holding the Denver Nuggets to just 29 points.
In the end, they lost 89-86. Perhaps you’ll excuse them the defeat, given the absences of Draymond Green, Jordan Poole, and Damion Lee (not to mention Klay Thompson and James Wiseman), as well as the heart shown in overcoming a 24-point deficit. Perhaps you won’t excuse the defeat, as falling behind 60-36 at halftime is ... well ... rather inexcusable.
However you feel, the loss is in the books, and it’s time to grade the 10 players who laced up their sneakers, weighting for our expectations.
32 minutes, 21 points, 8 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, 1 block, 2 turnovers, 2 fouls, 8-for-20 shooting, 3-for-6 threes, 2-for-3 free throws, +1
Wiggins didn’t have the most efficient scoring night, but then again, neither did the team, so we can overlook it a bit. The rebounding and defense were awesome, but mostly it was just great to see Wiggins back on the court after a four-game absence due to the health and safety protocols.
Post-game bonus: Led the team in rebounds.
23 minutes, 10 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 1 turnover, 1 foul, 4-for-6 shooting, 1-for-2 threes, 1-for-6 free throws, -4
JTA was asked to fill in for Green, which isn’t a task I would wish on anyone. He did a pretty decent job on defense, and while he didn’t create too much offense with his playmaking, he cut back on the turnovers that had been plaguing him for a while.
Still, in a game where the Warriors missed 15 free throws and lost by three, it’s hard to overlook Toscano-Anderson’s night from the charity stripe.
26 minutes, 6 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, 1 turnover, 4 fouls, 3-for-5 shooting, +6
This needs to be taken with a grain of salt, seeing as how Denver’s offense has struggled for much of the year, but Looney still deserves a heaping of credit for holding a Nikola Jokić team to just 89 points ... and just 29 in the second half. Jokić’s 22 points and 18 rebounds look impressive, but he needed 19 shots and eight free throws to get those points, and turned the ball over eight times.
Give Looney the bulk of the credit there.
39 minutes, 23 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 6 turnovers, 3 fouls, 6-for-16 shooting, 5-for-14 threes, 6-for-7 free throws, +5
Like most of the team, Curry’s first half was abysmal, as he had just one made field goal. He didn’t make a second shot until the end of the third quarter, when he made his first triple — tying his own record for the most games in a row with a made three.
From there on out it was vintage Curry, as he put on a show that was nearly enough to pull the Dubs to victory.
Steph just COOKED Austin Rivers pic.twitter.com/4yAlgZWgFZ— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) December 29, 2021
It wasn’t enough to erase our memories of the awful first half, or the handful of turnovers ... but it got close.
Post-game bonus: Led the team in points and assists.
Gary Payton II
29 minutes, 11 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 2 turnovers, 1 foul, 4-for-6 shooting, 1-for-2 threes, 2-for-2 free throws, -2
On Thursday, Payton will relinquish his starting role to Poole, who will in turn relinquish the spot to Thompson.
But after games like Tuesday’s — which have become the norm for GP2 — it’s nearly impossible to imagine him being out of the rotation, even as the Dubs welcome back a pair of brilliant guards.
He’s quickly become not just one of the team’s best players, but one of their most trusted, too, and that was on display against Denver.
18 minutes, 5 points, 8 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 turnover, 4 fouls, 2-for-4 shooting, 0-for-1 threes, 1-for-1 free throws, -6
I’m starting to feel a little bit bad for Bjeli, as he always seems to help the team, but his placement on the second unit so often leads to a negative plus/minus.
Grabbing nearly a rebound every two minutes went a huge way towards the Dubs matching Denver’s tally on the boards, and it’s enough to allow me to overlook the foul numbers.
Post-game bonus: Led the team in rebounds.
17 minutes, 9 points, 2 rebounds, 1 foul, 3-for-6 shooting, 0-for-2 threes, 3-for-10 free throws, +8
In the short term, Kuminga leaving seven points at the line is a huge reason why Golden State lost, especially considering this stat:
This was the first time the Warriors shot 52% or worse from the free throw line on at least 20 attempts since 2007. https://t.co/PAeVtNOb2T— Brady Klopfer (@BradyKlopferNBA) December 29, 2021
But in the long term? Kuminga relentlessly attacked the rim, missed his first five free throws, and continued to relentlessly attack the rim. He was unfazed by the free throw foibles, and only amped up the aggression. He confidently went at the rim with the game on the line, and, if we’re being honest, probably should have shot two more free throws.
He’s still raw as can be, but the ability to earn 10 free throws in 17 minutes is a sign of just how good he can eventually become.
Post-game bonus: Led the team in plus/minus.
24 minutes, 1 point, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 turnovers, 0-for-2 shooting, 0-for-2 threes, 1-for-2 free throws, -9
Andre Iguodala has it most nights. Andre Iguodala did not have it on this night, with or without the air-balled three that would have tied the game in the final second.
Post-game bonus: Led the team in assists, worst plus/minus on the team.
Otto Porter Jr.
26 minutes, 0 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, 1 turnover, 4 fouls, 0-for-4 shooting, 0-for-1 threes, -7
After playing playing the role of offensive hero during the Christmas win over the Phoenix Suns, Porter couldn’t get the ball to go through the hoop against the Nuggets. His defense was really strong, minus the fouls, but the Dubs definitely needed some points.
6 minutes, 0 points, 1 assist, 0-for-2 shooting, 0-for-2 threes, -7
Chiozza has been forced into a bigger role with so many players out and, unfortunately, he hasn’t done much to keep that role when players return.
Tuesday’s DNPs: Jeff Dowtin, Quinndary Weatherspoon
Tuesday’s inactives: Draymond Green, Damion Lee, Moses Moody, Jordan Poole, Klay Thompson, James Wiseman