For most of the game, it looked like the Golden State Warriors were going to go into the All-Star break on a high note. They led the Denver Nuggets after the first quarter. It was a nine-point lead at halftime. The lead was double digits for a good chunk of the third, and sat at eight points entering the final frame.
And then the Nuggets chipped away, chipped away, and chipped away, finally taking the lead for the first time all night with 14.9 seconds later. The Dubs bounced back with a very nice three-point play by Steph Curry, only to cede a game-winning three at the buzzer by Monte Morris, losing 117-116.
And with that, the Warriors enter the break losers of four of their last five games, a gut-punching skid that immediately followed a nine-game winning streak. They sit a staggering six games behind the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference standings, and are only two games ahead of the Memphis Grizzlies for the No. 2 seed.
They’re still in good shape:
Steph Curry pretty upset ("we feel like trash right now") about the loss, but seems very confident about where the team is heading into the break, with reinforcements on the way: "Overall it's a solid place to be. You have to focus on that."— Golden State of Mind (@unstoppablebaby) February 17, 2022
But it’s a pretty painful way to enter the All-Star break.
So let’s see how it happened, by grading the players, weighting for our expectations of them.
36 minutes, 9 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, 2 turnovers, 4-for-12 shooting, 1-for-5 threes, -1
Wiggins is limping into the All-Star break a little bit, and not quite playing like the label he’ll be rocking on Sunday in Cleveland. He has yet to score 20 points in a game in February, and in seven games this month is shooting 38-for-88 from the field while earning just 10 free throw attempts. Some of it has been some offensive trepidation, as evidenced by the lack of free throws, and in Wednesday’s game he found himself hunting fadeaway jumpers rather than shots moving towards the rim.
The assist and stock totals were nice in this game, but the poor offense — in addition to the low rebounding totals in a game where he slid up to the power forward position — earn him a rough grade. This was cool as hell though:
27 minutes, 13 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 1 turnover, 5 fouls, 5-for-8 shooting, 3-for-8 free throws, -4
It’s kind of hard to know what to make of Looney’s game. On the one hand, he got beat up by Nikola Jokić; on the other hand, who doesn’t? On the one hand, he had pretty nice numbers in this game; on the other hand, the Nuggets opting for a hack-a-Looney strategy down the stretch was a huge reason for the outcome.
Ultimately, Looney is being asked to do so much — he hasn’t missed a game all year, and has held down the fort as the team’s other center options, Draymond Green and James Wiseman have been injured. The All-Star break is mercifully here, and Looney looks ready for it.
Post-game bonus: Led the team in rebounds, worst plus/minus on the team.
39 minutes, 23 points, 3 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 turnovers, 2 fouls, 10-for-19 shooting, 1-for-7 threes, 4-for-4 free throws, -2
You could make the case that Curry was a leading actor in the two most important plays of the game. With just a few seconds remaining and the Dubs trailing by a point, Curry worked his way inside the arc for a gorgeous mid-range jump shot, which he canned while getting fouled, putting the Warriors up by two.
Mama, there goes that man pic.twitter.com/7BufmpueIw— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) February 17, 2022
Then, a few seconds later, Curry abandoned Monte Morris to help on Jokić, leading to Morris being open for the game-winning three.
Heartbreak as the Dubs lose on Monte Morris' buzzer beater pic.twitter.com/UK7KxuVtdR— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) February 17, 2022
Steph was quite critical of his defensive foible in the aftermath of the game.
Steph Curry on the final possession: "I took the bait, made a dumb read, was a step late, thinking the clock had run down enough ... he made a great pass ... Monte made a clutch bucket, and I gave it to him. The last thing you can do in that situation, and I did that."— Brady Klopfer (@BradyKlopferNBA) February 17, 2022
Still, despite that moment, and despite his three-pointer abandoning him again, Curry was only one of two Warriors who had anything going offensively.
Post-game bonus: Led the team in points and assists.
31 minutes, 16 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, 2 fouls, 5-for-15 shooting, 3-for-10 threes, 3-for-4 free throws, 0 plus/minus
After his brilliant showing against the Los Angeles Lakers over the weekend, Klay slides into the break shooting 8-for-29 in the last two games. This was simply a rough game for him, though the four assists without a turnover is a lovely sight.
Thompson looked a little sluggish on both ends of the court in this game, though he looked pretty good early on.
Gary Payton II
25 minutes, 12 points, 4 rebounds, 6 steals, 1 block, 2 turnovers, 2 fouls, 5-for-8 shooting, 1-for-4 threes, 1-for-2 free throws, +13
Are you ready for a bonkers stat? Check this out:
I'm not sure if I've ever seen this before. The Warriors lost by just 1 point tonight, but only one player had a positive plus/minus. Unsurprisingly, it was Gary Payton II (+13). Klay Thompson had a plus/minus of 0. Every other Warrior who played was negative.— Marc Delucchi (@maddelucchi) February 17, 2022
It feels rather safe to say that the Warriors would have won this game if GPII had played more minutes. Unfortunately he’s been dealing with lingering ailments lately, and had to leave this game for the locker room early after limping off the court (he later returned).
But when he was on the court he was an absolutely disruptive force. I caution against using single-game plus/minus as anything too meaningful, but sometimes it makes sense, and on Wednesday it made sense. GPII was seemingly breaking up every Denver possession, while backcutting the Nuggets to death.
GPII is the tallest 6'3'' dude on the planet pic.twitter.com/OA0UmcrZMx— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) February 17, 2022
The defense (six steals!!!) is what will (and should) get the headlines, but it’s worth noting that his offense came back to life: he had scored just one point in his last four games, and his points total against the Nuggets was more than in his previous seven games combined.
Post-game bonus: Led the team in plus/minus.
16 minutes, 4 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 fouls, 2-for-3 shooting, -4
Steve Kerr mixed up his rotation this game, and it had to make Bjelica feel a little bit more secure. With the Warriors rumored to be players in the buyout market, someone could potentially get cut in the coming weeks, and Bjelica, Juan Toscano-Anderson, and Damion Lee seem like the only candidates. Against Denver, Bjeli got his usual chunk of minutes off the bench, while Lee and JTA didn’t make it onto the court.
He did fine in those minutes, though he wasn’t dynamic. His defense was a little more solid this game, and he really hustled, but he wasn’t able to be an offensive spark plug.
Post-game bonus: Worst plus/minus on the team.
21 minutes, 12 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, 4 fouls, 5-for-6 shooting, 2-for-2 free throws, -1
Kuminga had a stretch in the first quarter that was one of the most dynamic moments of the game, in which he put up eight points in the blink of an eye. He showed everything that makes him one of the highest-ceiling young players in the NBA, though his foul tally also reminded us of his inexperience.
Otto Porter Jr.
23 minutes, 10 points, 7 rebounds, 1 block, 1 foul, 3-for-6 shooting, 0-for-2 threes, 4-for-4 free throws, -4
With Kerr tightening his rotation — only nine players saw action on Wednesday — Porter received a bigger chunk of minutes than he usually gets off the bench. It seemed to help him find some rhythm, and I think it’s safe to say that the Dubs will take 10 and 7 with good efficiency any night of the week from Porter.
Post-game bonus: Worst plus/minus on the team.
22 minutes, 15 points, 1 rebound, 5 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, 3 turnovers, 2 fouls, 6-for-11 shooting, 2-for-4 threes, 1-for-2 free throws, -2
Poole had himself a pretty solid game. He did exactly what the Warriors want out of him, providing a big offensive spark off the bench — 15 points and five assists in just 22 minutes of action is elite bench production, especially when you account for the fact that it was on 63.1% true shooting. His defense was also quite good in this game. Really, the turnovers were the only issue in an otherwise strong game from JP.
Wednesday’s DNPs: Chris Chiozza, Damion Lee, Moses Moody, Juan Toscano-Anderson
Wednesday’s inactives: Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, Quinndary Weatherspoon, James Wiseman