Steph Curry

Why Warriors are encouraged by 6-3 start to 2023-24 NBA season

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The Warriors slogged into Denver on Wednesday night with a smart game plan that, aside from some self-defeating moments in the first half, they executed quite well.

Which is why the pain of a 108-105 loss to the defending champion Nuggets should not linger more than a few hours. If that.

Because all things considered, the Warriors are coming home with a 6-3 record through their first nine games, played in eight different cities, seven of which are outside the Bay Area.

“Nobody likes to lose,” Stephen Curry told reporters at Ball Arena. “But you look at the fact that we can play a lot better in the margins and we can execute a little better offensively. Get a little more organized. Understand how they guarded us and what they tried to take away.

“Yes, you feel as good as you could after a loss, just knowing the steps we need to take, that they’re the defending champs, at home, with the schedule we’ve had. We have a competitive spirit and togetherness that is nice to see develop this early in the season.”

Two weeks into the season, the Warriors know they have done enough to fortify the belief that formed during training camp. That they are good, with a chance to be excellent. And deep, with a chance to be deeper.

The Nuggets were missing a key starter, Jamal Murray. The Warriors were missing a key starter, Draymond Green, and a key reserve, Gary Payton II. Having chance to win inside the final minute in the NBA’s most unforgiving road arena is, all things considered, a moral victory.

Moral victories can be acceptable, even significant, in early November.

When we saw the schedule at the beginning of the year,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said, “and we saw seven of the first nine on the road, especially with a lot of new guys . . . Draymond being out all of camp, we looked at it and said, ‘We’ve just got to get through the stretch.’ We did more than that.”

The Warriors have learned a lot about themselves since Oct. 23 when they broke training camp. And nearly all of it is positive.

They learned Curry still can make magic.

They learned they can trust rookies Brandin Podziemski and Trayce Jackson-Davis as much as the veterans.

“We’ll throw them out there in any situation,” Kerr said. “We have a lot of confidence in them.”

The Warriors also learned, largely because of Chris Paul’s presence, that the turnovers that were so crippling in recent seasons – and often lethal last season – are, for the most part, a thing of the past.

They learned that they are more of a team than they have been – and much more of a team than they were last season.

“We’re off to a great start,” Kevon Looney said. “When you start the season with that many road games, it can go bad quickly if you lose a few on the road, especially with the back-to-backs that we’ve had.”

The last game of any NBA road trip always is a test of mental and physical fortitude. And both of those factors are emphasized when coping with the mile-high altitude of Denver.

The Warriors through the first three quarters defended Denver superstar Nikola Jokić with individuals, rotating Dario Sarić with Looney and Jackson-Davis. In the fourth, with the game tight, and Nuggets coach Michael Malone stretching the Jokić minutes, the Warriors doubled the 7-footer. It was right move, as he failed to take a shot over the final four minutes and committed a turnover.

That was a factor in Golden State staying in the game. Despite a missed goaltending call on a Curry layup earlier in the fourth quarter, the outcome was not decided until spent the final minute a possession away from victory.

“Defending champs, on the road, at the end of a long trip – it was a hell of a fight,” Kerr said. “Our guys really competed and gave themselves a chance to win. It’s a tough way to finish. But I couldn’t be more proud of them, and more excited about our team.”

With the Warriors trailing by two and seven seconds remaining, Curry worked into a good look but missed the potential game-tying floater in the paint.

The loss will sting. That’s the short view. The long view says the first two weeks were more than satisfactory. The Warriors have every reason to be encouraged.

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