Down 1-0 to their Northern California neighbor, is it time to panic for the defending champs? Not one bit, as the Warriors are battled-tested for the moment.
Stephen Curry ended Saturday night with 30 points and a game-high +11 plus-minus and after sinking a huge three on the wing, the Golden State Warriors found themselves with a 10-point lead late in the third quarter. And then, the double-edged sword of Steve Kerr’s substitution pattern reared its ugly head again.
In the five minutes that Curry sat between the third and fourth quarter, the Sacramento Kings blitzed Golden State 23-11 en route to a 126-123 win in Game 1. Granted, the Warriors’ 1-0 hole does not solely rest on the shoulders of Curry sitting on the bench during the second-half, but it proved consequential nonetheless.
Andrew Wiggins absolutely needs to hit that corner three at the end, but acclimating back into the speed of the game will qualm those issues. Kerr would also be wise to hand more minutes to Gary Payton II (20 minutes on Saturday), whose on-ball perimeter defense will be needed to make De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk work for their efforts. And as is always the case, there is no room for lackadaisical turnovers in a playoff atmosphere.
But let’s take a deep breath and look at the big picture: Golden State lost a one-posession game in which they shot 16-50 from three, committed 15 turnovers, and allowed 17 offensive rebounds.
The Kings should absolutely relish in their win after weathering a Warriors third-quarter storm that historically would be the nail in the coffin for their opponents. But the same can be said that Golden State, who knew they would be entering a raucous atmosphere, will gladly walk away feeling comfortable after just a one-possession loss.
And don’t forget that Curry, surprisingly, had an open opportunity to potentially send the game into overtime. If that basket goes in, chances are we could be having a different conversation in the aftermath.
As Draymond Green said postgame (on his podcast specifically), Golden State won’t be surprised to see Fox’s statline of 38 points. He was a well-deserved All-Star this season for a reason. But allowing 32 points to Monk and with Trey Lyles adding in 16 points (6-8 from the field, 4-6 from three)? Those are giveaways that cannot be repeated in Game 2.
The Warriors will need to execute their offense better, they’ll need to attack the glass more relentlessly (particularly the offensive boards) and perhaps most simply, allocate more minutes to the players that win you games. Golden State won’t, and shouldn’t, panic after going down 1-0 to the Kings. But this team has never faced an 0-2 deficit in the Kerr era, so no one can confidently claim they’ll weather that potential scenario.
It’s up to them to be more fine-tuned on Monday night to ensure they head back to San Francisco tied one game apiece.