The Golden State Warriors played some of their best basketball in a long time on Wednesday night.
Unfortunately “best basketball in a long time” wasn’t quite good enough for a team missing Steph Curry, and up against the best team in the NBA in the Phoenix Suns, and so the Dubs lost a heartbreaker 107-103.
I’ll stop short of calling it a moral victory. But going blow-for-blow with the association’s top team, without your best player, should at least provide the Warriors with a healthy reminder that they can still be a championship-caliber team when they’re willing to commit to playing defense.
Let’s hope they can do it more regularly moving forward. And while we wait to find out, let’s grade the players, weighting for our expectations of each.
Note: league-average true-shooting percentage (TS) was 56.4% entering Wednesday’s games.
31 minutes, 8 points, 10 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals, 3 blocks, 4 turnovers, 4 fouls, 2-for-4 shooting, 4-for-5 free throws, 64.5% TS, -10
Dray had some infuriating moments in this game, with missed layups, technical fouls, and a few miscommunications. But all bad things look magnified in losses, and the reality is that he played quite well, and had his best game since returning from injury.
The Suns are second in the league with a 116.8 offensive rating, but the Dubs held them to a 102.9 offensive rating in this game. Anytime the defense thrives, Draymond is the first person who deserves credit, and whether you want to look at Phoenix’s offensive woes, Dray’s 5 stocks, or the fact that he guarded Chris Paul for much of the game, assigning credit to Green for the defense is fair.
He also brought the energy, made two huge free throws late, and was a huge reason the team stayed hustling at a high level.
Post-game bonus: Led the team in rebounds, tied for the team lead in assists, worst plus/minus on the team.
33 minutes, 19 points, 8 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block, 3 turnovers, 2 fouls, 6-for-16 shooting, 2-for-6 threes, 5-for-8 free throws, 48.7% TS, -7
Wiggins had one of his highest-scoring outputs in recent memory, but it still was a poor offensive game for him. He missed an uncontested layup for his first shot, and that was kind of a sign of how things would go for him the rest of the night.
He’s had far more days scoring with below-average efficiency than above-average efficiency lately, and that’s a doubly hard pill to swallow when he has three turnovers to a single assist.
Wiggins did have a decent defensive game, though it’s worth noting that he wasn’t given one of the big defensive assignments. The rebounds were very nice to see, as was the willingness and ability to draw fouls.
15 minutes, 2 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 fouls, 1-for-2 shooting, 50.0% TS, -3
Really nothing much to note here from Looney. The Dubs preferred to go small over matching Deandre Ayton’s size and, with the team struggling so much on offense, it seems Looney will play a small role until Curry returns.
34 minutes, 13 points, 1 rebound, 4 assists, 3 turnovers, 4 fouls, 5-for-21 shooting, 1-for-10 threes, 2-for-2 free throws, 29.7% TS, -5
As the game between the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat was coming to a close before the Warriors and Suns tipped things off, ESPN’s promos kept selling this game as a matchup between Klay Thompson and Devin Booker.
Both players shot 5-for-21.
That’s the good news and the bad news. It was an awful scoring night for Klay, who forced some of his shots and straight up missed the other ones. But it was also an exceptional defensive night, as he was given the task of guarding one of the top scorers in the NBA, and did a great job.
I’ll be honest, I don’t know how to grade him. It’s hard to view an offensive night like that as anything better than a total catastrophe, but that defense was a huge part of the Warriors being in the game for 48 minutes.
37 minutes, 38 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists, 1 steal, 2 turnovers, 4 fouls, 11-for-22 shooting, 7-for-15 threes, 9-for-10 free throws, 72.0% TS, +2
It’s kind of cool how Jordan Poole is just one of the best players in the NBA now. That’s a development I’m here for.
As I’ve said so many times with Curry, I’m running out of words to describe what Poole is doing. He was the best player in this game for either team, and it’s a serious indictment of the Warriors that they had a rather paltry offensive night even with Poole setting the arena on fire en route to 38 points, which tied his career high.
He may be remembered in this game for shooting a half-court shot with four seconds left — a move that I maintain was totally fine — but he should be remembered for being the reason the Warriors almost won.
Post-game bonus: Led the team in points, tied for the team lead in assists.
19 minutes, 5 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 3 turnovers, 3 fouls, 2-for-3 shooting, 1-for-1 threes, 83.3% TS, +5
I’m not entirely sure what to make of Bjeli’s game. I’ve been a much bigger supporter of him than most people in Dub Nation this season, but about halfway through his playing time I was forced to tweet this:
Bjelica starting to do some not very smart things— Golden State of Mind (@unstoppablebaby) March 31, 2022
Those not-smart things included getting caught up in the air, making bad passes, and having silly fouls.
But before and after those not smart things? Bjelica did some really awesome stuff. He was ferocious attacking the glass, helped a middling offense get back on track on multiple occasions, and scored the ball really well.
The Warriors were at their best in the minutes when he was on the court, and while that’s probably mostly coincidence, it’s not all coincidence.
Post-game bonus: Led the team in plus/minus.
5 minutes, 0 points, 1 turnover, -2
Kuminga’s future remains ridiculously bright, but he hasn’t been playing very well lately, and now it’s starting to be reflected in his minutes.
16 minutes, 3 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, 3 turnovers, 3 fouls, 1-for-3 shooting, 1-for-3 threes, 50.0% TS, -1
Iguodala looked better on Monday against the Grizzlies than on Wednesday against the Suns, when he didn’t run the offense as well, didn’t score as gracefully, and had a bigger issues with turnovers.
His defense was quite good though, and it’s still great seeing him back on the court.
Otto Porter Jr.
29 minutes, 5 points, 6 rebounds, 1 turnover, 2-for-4 shooting, 1-for-2 threes, 62.5% TS, +3
Porter’s stats are nothing to ogle over, but he played starter’s minutes, and was on the floor down the stretch. And he deserved both of those things.
Seeing him with the closing lineup was fun, as it took advantage of his length and ability to switch. He’s been a very smart player this year, frequently making the correct decision, and that helped things function in the important moments.
Gary Payton II
21 minutes, 10 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 1 turnover, 2 fouls, 5-for-8 shooting, 0-for-1 threes, 62.5% TS, -2
GPII looked a little hobbled after a few plays, so let’s hope that he’s OK. I think it’s safe to say that he’ll be excited to have an offseason to rest up his body, which has taken a beating this season.
He’s so important against teams like Phoenix, which has two backcourt stars. You don’t see many people fluster Chris Paul the way Payton did on multiple occasions.
41 seconds, 0 points, 0 plus/minus
Wednesday’s DNPs: Chris Chiozza, Damion Lee, Juan Toscano-Anderson, Quinndary Weatherspoon
Wednesday’s inactives: Steph Curry, James Wiseman