Well, that must be a weight off their shoulders. Last year it took the Golden State Warriors nine attempts to win their first road game of the year, which they finally accomplished with a not-very-convincing W over a paltry Houston Rockets team. But this year? Golden State cashed in on a road victory in their very first attempt, beating an exceptional Sacramento Kings squad 122-114 ... despite playing without Draymond Green.
A collapse in the final few minutes kept it from being a blowout, but it was still a game that the Dubs controlled. And considering that Sacramento had a better record than Golden State last year and pushed them to the brink of elimination in the playoffs, this feels like something of a statement game.
So let’s grade the players that made it happen. As always, grades are based on my expectation for each player, with a “B” grade representing the average performance for that person.
Note: True-shooting percentage (TS) is a scoring efficiency metric that accounts for threes and free throws. Last year, league-average TS was 58.1%
28 minutes, 8 points, 12 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals, 1 block, 1 turnover, 3 fouls, 4-for-6 shooting, 66.7% TS, +4
If you watched Looney’s first two games without knowing the NBA, you’d think that Jusuf Nurkić, not Domantas Sabonis, was the three-time All-Star and reigning All-NBA selection. Sabonis still got his in this game, finishing with 19 points, 18 rebounds, and 7 assists, though much of that came when Looney was off the floor. Looney made him work super hard and, most importantly, really made things ugly (in the good way) in the paint ... something that always behooves the Dubs, but that they often are unable to do when Green is sidelined.
Looney is still figuring out how to play with Chris Paul, as their skillsets aren’t a great match. But he was perhaps the biggest reason that the Warriors, sans their best defensive player, had a pretty decent defensive showing, on the road, against the team that set the NBA record for offensive efficiency last year.
And look at this!
Post-game bonus: Led the team in rebounds.
27 minutes, 11 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks, 2 turnovers, 4 fouls, 5-for-13 shooting, 0-for-3 threes, 1-for-2 free throws, 39.6% TS, +2
A game after getting benched down the stretch, Wiggins was on the court in the final minutes ... but probably in large part due to the fact that the Warriors had a large enough lead that they weren’t very concerned with losing it (though they tried!).
Wiggins was undeniably better against Sacramento than against Phoenix on Tuesday, on both ends of the court. He was still well below his standard level of play, however. Is it worth worrying about? Probably not, but it is worth noting that he’s been below his standard level of play for quite a while ... his 2022-23 season was a sizable step back from his 2021-22 All-Star campaign, and doubly so if you count it from his dynamic NBA Finals performance. And so far this year has started with a highly uninspiring training camp and two pretty poor games.
He still showed some flashes. His length and on-ball defense were at-times disruptive, and he quietly had one of the most critical plays of the game when, with the Warriors trying to give the game away in the final minute, he broke down the defense and found Steph Curry for a dagger three.
But the bad is definitely outweighing the good right now. He doesn’t seem nearly as athletic as he once was, and I’m not sure if that’s due to conditioning, getting older, or being lackadaisical. This game was an improvement over his one rebound he grabbed in the opener, but the Dubs sure need a more inspired rebounding performance, especially with Green out. And while he’s doing a decent job of not forcing bad shots, he just isn’t a particularly impactful offensive player at the moment.
Not sure what’s going on.
33 minutes, 10 points, 2 rebounds, 12 assists, 3 steals, 3 turnovers, 2 fouls, 5-for-12 shooting, 0-for-2 threes, 41.7% TS, +2
Paul’s Warriors debut is off to a strong start. If there was any worry about how he’d fit on the team, those concerns have dissipated. It’s been a seamless transition, with CP3 adapting his game to fit his new teammates and coach, and vice versa. The vibes are good, the chemistry is good, and the play is good. And while Paul had a handful of turnovers during the team’s late collapse, the ball security that he provides is a breath of fresh air for a team that has built a home at the top of the turnovers per game lists for a decade.
His defense was pretty darn solid in this game, too. De’Aaron Fox took over down the stretch, but the Kings backcourt of Fox, Kevin Huerter, Malik Monk, Davion Mitchell, and Chris Duarte combined to shoot just 17-46 with a mere seven assists; Paul was a huge part of that.
For the second straight game, Paul struggled to shoot the ball, but the Warriors will be more than happy with those scoring contributions given everything else. I think it’s pretty clear that Golden State is a better team this year than last year, and CP3 is a huge part of that reason already.
Post-game bonus: Led the team in assists.
35 minutes, 41 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 4 turnovers, 14-for-19 shooting, 7-for-10 threes, 6-for-6 free throws, 94.7% TS, +10
Want to know something funny? Prior to this game, the Warrior (past or present) who had the highest points total in an NBA game this season was ... wait for it ... Harrison Barnes.
Curry broke out in the second game of the season with a classic Curry performance, pouring in 41 points on truly silly efficiency. Do you think Kings fans, who have witnessed the chef put up 91 points in his last two trips to Sacramento, are tired of him?
Anyway, not much to say about this performance. A masterpiece from Curry, who got any and everything he wanted on offense and played pretty darn good defense, too. And it never hurts to put the exclamation point on the game.
Post-game bonus: Led the team in points.
33 minutes, 18 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, 3 turnovers, 4 fouls, 7-for-12 shooting, 2-for-4 threes, 2-for-2 free throws, 69.9% TS, +4
An excellent bounce-back game from Klay, who was missing a ton of shots in the opener. Not in this one! He picked his spots, scored with divine efficiency, and continues to look a lot more athletic and better defensively than last year.
Klay with the three!— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) October 28, 2023
Steph knew pic.twitter.com/8QR4Pu1p8n
This is the type of Klay that can help turn the Warriors from contenders to favorites.
14 minutes, 5 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 1 turnover, 4 fouls, 2-for-5 shooting, 1-for-4 threes, 50.0% TS, -6
It could be that Šarić will follow in JaMychal Green and Nemanja Bjelica’s footsteps and win this year’s Worst Plus/Minus Because They Play When Looney Doesn’t award. But in this particular game, it was mostly that he didn’t play very well.
Sabonis and the Kings larger backup bigs gave Šarić the business, so much so that he was benched with foul trouble despite only playing 14 minutes.
He’s a fantastic addition to the team, but that’s not quite on display yet.
Post-game bonus: Worst plus/minus on the team.
26 minutes, 12 points, 5 rebounds, 2 turnovers, 3 fouls, 5-for-11 shooting, 1-for-3 threes, 1-for-2 free throws, 50.5% TS, +9
I don’t envy Steve Kerr and his staff the challenge of trying to figure out minutes. Any question as to whether Kuminga deserves a set spot in the rotation in his third season has been firmly answered by a sensational preseason and two solid performances to kick off the year. But finding those minutes is tricky enough as is, and that’s with Wiggins struggling and Green sidelined.
Anyway, it’s not my job to figure it out, thankfully. It’s just my job to talk about how Kuminga played, and I thought fairly well. It was still a learning curve game, as he missed the opportunity to make the extra pass on numerous occasions, didn’t rack up a ton of rebounds (though he was a bit of a pest on the glass), and wasn’t very efficient.
But he looks good. He looks really good. And that’s what matters. And also he played spectacular defense, I thought.
5 minutes, 0 points, 1 rebound, 1 foul, +7
It’s pretty clear right now where the Warriors rotation sits, in terms of who’s in and who’s out. It’s a 10-player rotation (when Green is healthy), with Jackson-Davis, fellow rookie Brandin Podziemski, and Cory Joseph on the outside looking in. But those three will play sporadically when the situation calls for it, as Joseph did when Curry got in foul trouble on Tuesday, and as TJD did in a favorable matchup on Friday, when Šarić got in foul trouble.
We didn’t get to see too much from the second-round pick, though he learned a valuable lesson in “always looking up when Curry or Paul have the ball,” as he missed a gorgeous full court pass from Steph after doing a good job of running the court ... but never expecting a pass.
Mostly I’m just always happy to see a player actualize their dream and make their way onto an NBA court for the first time. That alone makes the grade easy ...
Gary Payton II
18 minutes, 7 points, 1 assist, 1 steal, 2 turnovers, 3 fouls, 2-for-4 shooting, 1-for-3 threes, 2-for-2 free throws, 71.7% TS, -3
The Kings are the type of team where you remember just how valuable GPII is. He looks so comfortable guarding Fox, a point guard who is perhaps the fastest player in the league; and he looks equally comfortable guarding Keegan Murray, a wing built in the Kawhi Leonard mold. All while mixing it up on the glass with Sabonis and JaVale McGee.
What a treat to have him back and healthy.
21 minutes, 10 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 steals, 1 turnover, 4-for-5 shooting, 2-for-3 threes, 100.0% TS, +11
Remember what I said about Kuminga and Kerr and minutes? Yeah, Moody fits right in that basket. Through two games, you could make a very strong case that Moody has been the team’s second-best player.
The composure that defined his first two seasons is being balanced by more skill and aggression than before, as Moody is starting to force the issue (in a good way), instead of being passive. One play in particular in this game — a step-back to a pump-fake, followed by a reload three — showed the evolution of his game.
He’s also been brilliant defensively. I’ll be honest, I always felt that people overrated Moody’s defense in his first two seasons. But there can be no denying now that he’s turned into a solid on and off-ball defensive player, who is a menace ball-hunter.
Post-game bonus: Best plus/minus on the team.
Friday’s DNPs: Cory Joseph, Brandin Podziemski
Friday’s inactives: Usman Garuba, Draymond Green, Lester Quiñones, Jerome Robinson