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Player grades: Warriors vs. Blazers

Assessing every Golden State player’s performance from the team’s 110-106 win over Portland.

Jonathan Kuminga dunking a ball with both hands. Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Golden State Warriors are, thankfully, back in the win column. It wasn’t pretty, but the Dubs welcomed the new-look Portland Trail Blazers into their cozy abode on Wednesday night, and emerged with a 110-106 victory.

I was hoping for a blowout. But tip your cap to Portland, as they came ready to play. And after the Dubs’ last two losses came by blowing 20-plus point leads, I’m not here to argue with any W.

I am here to grade one, though, so let’s break out the red pens. As always, grades are based on my expectations for each player. A “B” grade represents the average performance for that player.

Note: True-shooting percentage (TS) is a scoring efficiency metric that accounts for threes and free throws. Entering Wednesday’s games, league-average TS was 57.7%.

Draymond Green

31 minutes, 10 points, 10 rebounds, 9 assists, 2 blocks, 4 turnovers, 3 fouls, 3-for-7 shooting, 0-for-2 threes, 4-for-4 free throws, 57.1% TS, -1

If you’ve been reading my work long, you probably know that I often reference how you can tell a lot about the Warriors based on Green’s energy. If he enters camp in great shape and playing like every game matters, he probably thinks the team can make a championship run. If he starts playing like it’s the ceremonial family pickup game after Christmas dinner, he is, by his own admission, probably not optimistic about the state of the team.

So it’s encouraging that, even as the Warriors find creative ways to lose, sport a losing record at the quarter mark of the season, and have been fairly disappointing this year, Green is still playing like he’s trying to exhaust his power bar as quickly as possible.

That was on full display this game. It wasn’t Dray’s best performance — he was a huge part of why the team was so sloppy, with four turnovers and a few more plays that probably should have been turnovers. But from the start, Dray was everywhere.

He was pushing the ball in transition at every opportunity. He was flying across the court for deflections, close-outs, and rebounds. I had a to drink a Gatorade I was so exhausted just watching him.

And when the game mattered, Green corralled his sloppiness. He had two huge passes late, finding a cutting Klay Thompson for a layup with a few minutes remaining, then tossing up a beautiful lob to Jonathan Kuminga inside the final minute.

Like the team, Green has some fine-tuning to do and needs to play a little more in control. But it sure felt like he set the tone for the team in this one, and I’m willing to overlook some issues because of that.

Grade: A-
Post-game bonus: Led the team in rebounds and assists.

Kevon Looney

16 minutes, 6 points, 8 rebounds, 1 steal, 2 fouls, 2-for-6 shooting, 2-for-2 free throws, 43.6% TS, -7

This wasn’t a bad Looney game, per se, but it was a reminder as to why the team added Dario Šarić, and why they added Nemanja Bjelica two years ago ... and why JaMychal Green’s play last year was one of the reasons the team struggled.

Had Deandre Ayton not been sidelined with knee soreness, Looney likely would have played way more minutes, and had a positive impact on the game. Instead, Portland went with a small lineup, and athletic rookie center Duop Reath. The lack of a traditional center ran Looney off the court a bit.

Still, he gobbled up rebounds when he was out there. And he was more efficient than his stat line suggests, since some of his missed shots were just tipped balls as he kept plays alive.

Looney is a very good player. But he’s not the right player for every matchup.

Grade: C
Post-game bonus: Worst plus/minus on the team.

Andrew Wiggins

27 minutes, 9 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 turnover, 1 foul, 3-for-12 shooting, 0-for-1 threes, 3-for-3 free throws, 33.8% TS, +6

Wiggins returned after a two-game absence following a disagreement with a car door. You should see the other guy vehicle!

I thought his defense was pretty damn good, and in a game defined by sloppiness, he deserves credit for having but one turnover and one foul.

Still and all, not a particularly good game.

Grade: C

Steph Curry

34 minutes, 31 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 4 turnovers, 2 fouls, 8-for-18 shooting, 5-for-13 threes, 10-for-11 free throws, 67.9% TS, +4

Curry would probably get an “A” if we could zap the first quarter from our memories, Men In Black style. But alas, we cannot.

It was a brutal first frame for the chef, who led the turnover brigade and played with the type of sloppiness that has defined the bulk of the team’s losses this year. He was making careless decisions with the ball and missing his shots.

The second quarter was a little better, but not super noteworthy.

And then the third quarter happened and Curry almost single-handedly kept the Dubs in it, even as Portland started to really click, and pushed the lead to double figures. Steph dropped 17 points in the frame, answered every time the Blazers tried to run away with it, and ignited not only his teammates, but the Chase Center crowd, too.

By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, Curry had gotten the turnovers out of his system, and was ready to slam the door shut. Which he did with perhaps the biggest shot of the game: a step-back three with just under 10 seconds remaining to make it a two-possession game.

Even when he has bad halves, he’s still usually the best player on the court.

Grade: B+
Post-game bonus: Led the team in points.

Klay Thompson

27 minutes, 11 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 3-for-13 shooting, 1-for-8 threes, 4-for-4 free throws, 37.3% TS, -6

It’s been a weird season for Klay, and this was a weird game. On the one hand, the thing he does better than almost any person who has ever walked the earth — shoot the basketball — abandoned him on Wednesday, as it has many times this year. On the other hand, in a game where the Warriors combined for 17 turnovers and 19 fouls, Thompson played 27 minutes without tallying a single of either.

You especially felt that in the first quarter, where it seemed like everyone except Klay was messing things up ... but then he would miss all his shots.

He figured it out when it mattered most, with a three, a beautiful cut and layup, and a pair of free throws down the stretch. And his rebounding was very good in this game.

He definitely wouldn’t have been the reason they lost, had they done so. But the Warriors need him to be more of the reason they win.

Grade: C

Dario Šarić

20 minutes, 13 points, 6 rebounds, 4 turnovers, 3 fouls, 4-for-7 shooting, 2-for-3 threes, 3-for-4 free throws, 74.2% TS, +7

What to make of Šarić’s game?

He had a terrifying three turnovers in the first quarter alone, and four on the day. All of them came from an inability to handle the physical pressure that Portland was putting on him (and everyone).

It’s hard to have a positive impact when you turn the ball over every five minutes.

But at the same time ... other than ball protection, Dario did everything well. He kept the ball moving quickly. He attacked the rim, got easy looks, drew contact, and splashed in threes. He worked harder on the glass than the six rebounds show, and played pretty good defense.

A little bit of awful. A lot of good. We’ll settle on average, I guess.

Grade: B

Jonathan Kuminga

17 minutes, 13 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 2 steals, 2 fouls, 6-for-6 shooting, 1-for-2 free throws, 94.5% TS, +13

Jonathan Kuminga did not play in the first half. Jonathan Kuminga entered the game with about five minutes remaining in the third quarter, and never sat on the bench again.

Jonathan Kuminga won them the game.

Before you pile on Steve Kerr — as so many already have in my mentions — it’s time to acknowledge just how impossible the Warriors minutes situation is. Kuminga was designed to be out of the rotation this game, after Moses Moody and Brandin Podziemski had earned minutes in the past week.

For those who will say, “Kerr needs to find minutes” ... where? In this game, for instance, neither Wiggins nor Thompson sniffed 30 minutes. Looney, a starter, didn’t sniff 20. Chris Paul, arguably the team’s second-best player this year, only played 20 minutes. Gary Payton II and Trayce Jackson-Davis didn’t play.

Unless the Warriors plan on playing everybody 20ish minutes, finding playing time for everybody is borderline impossible right now. Which is why Kuminga was on the outside looking in for this game.

But when he got in, he made a difference. A huge difference. Such a big difference that Kerr admitted after the game that it’s time to reassess the minutes he’s giving to proven veteran starters.

JK did exactly what the Warriors wanted him to do. He used a blend of brute force, elite athleticism, and nuanced skills to get to the rim time and time again. He finished with a balance of aggression and finesse. He played his butt off on defense. He kept the ball moving. He cut.

Hell, he flew.

Like so many on the team, he needs to play. I don’t envy those who have to figure out how to make that happen.

Grade: A+
Post-game bonus: Led the team in plus/minus.

Chris Paul

20 minutes, 2 points, 3 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 turnovers, 2 fouls, 1-for-4 shooting, 0-for-2 threes, 25.0% TS, -4

It was great to see CP3 back on the court, and to know that his leg injury wasn’t serious. The second unit desperately missed him, even if his performance on Wednesday wasn’t particularly notable.

Grade: C

Moses Moody

26 minutes, 12 points, 4 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block, 1 turnover, 2 fouls, 5-for-10 shooting, 1-for-4 threes, 1-for-1 free throws, 57.5% TS, +3

Moody is fast discovering that good things happen when he plays with aggression. Or, to borrow a word from Kelenna Azubuike, with audacity.

After opening his career primarily as a guy who would camp out in the corner and shoot open threes, Moody is blossoming into a slasher, and you can see him realizing both how much that helps the team, and how good he is at it.

He’s also turning into a baby Draymond for the way he’s seemingly everywhere. He was a total defensive pest in this one, and even drew a pair of charges.

This last week has been the best basketball of his career, by a mile.

Grade: A

Brandin Podziemski

21 minutes, 3 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 turnover, 2 fouls, 1-for-3 shooting, 1-for-1 threes, 0-for-2 free throws, 38.7% TS, +5

Another data point as to how difficult it is right now to allocate minutes: it’s easy to watch this game in hindsight and think that Kuminga should have been playing in place of Podziemski after the rookie struggled. But dang is it nice to see Podz geta chance to play through some mistakes and stay on the court.

He looked a bit like a rookie this game, which we haven’t had to say very many times this year. There were a few poor decisions and moments of over-exuberance. He made up for much of it with his continued excellence on the glass, and he had one of the shots of the game, a high-arcing three to cut the lead to four entering the final frame.

He’s got a long career ahead of him.

Grade: C+

Wednesday’s DNPs: Trayce Jackson-Davis, Cory Joseph

Wednesday’s inactives: Usman Garuba, Gary Payton II, Lester Quiñones, Jerome Robinson

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