Warriors Observations

What we learned as Warriors' defense derails in loss to Thunder

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SAN FRANCISCO – Young, long, athletic and deep. The combination of all from the Oklahoma City Thunder was too much for the Warriors to handle Thursday night in a 128-109 loss at Chase Center.

Without an injured Steph Curry and a suspended Draymond Green, the Warriors needed a handful of players to rise to the challenge. Their most accomplished healthy player did not. 

Klay Thompson’s struggles this season continued on yet another rough shooting night. Thompson scored a season-low five points, not counting his scoreless night last game when he was ejected in under two minutes played. Thompson only made one of his 10 shot attempts and was 1 of 6 on 3-pointers. 

Dario Šarić continued to be one of the Warriors’ best offensive players, scoring 12 points in his second straight start. Kevon Looney, who Šarić replaced in the starting lineup the last two games, also continued to be Mr. Reliable with a 13-point, 11-rebound double-double off the bench.

The Thunder for the second time this season lit up the Warriors’ defense, shooting 50.6 percent from the field and 59.4 percent beyond the arc. Oklahoma City in two games against Golden State has averaged 133.5 points.

Here are three takeaways from the Warriors’ fifth straight loss, dropping them to 6-7 on the season. 

Kuminga’s First Start in Year 3

Jonathan Kuminga started 12 games as a rookie and 16 his second year as a pro. His first start in his third season came Thursday night with Green unavailable. 

Steve Kerr in his pregame press conference said he wants Kuminga to take open 3-pointers while explaining how the young forward has been up-and-down to begin the season. Kuminga clearly took Kerr’s words to heart. He splashed a corner 3 on the Warriors’ first offensive possession, and threw down a fastbreak dunk the next time down the floor. 

In the first quarter of his first start this season, Kuminga scored eight points on a perfect 3-of-3 shooting, grabbed three rebounds and made his only free throw after this wild circus shot.

Kuminga scored just two points in the second, but exploded for eight in the first eight minutes of the third. Giving Kuminga an open lane and a head start is a bad combination for the opposition. This is the kind of athleticism the Warriors badly need to unleash. 

Overall, Kuminga scored a season-high 21 points on 8-of-13 shooting, and his six rebounds were tied for the most by Warriors starters.

More Moody

The short-handed Warriors went nine players deep in the first quarter. Moses Moody, however, was stuck to the sidelines and the stationary bike the entire time. Moody then started the second quarter and sat for only 30 seconds.

He couldn’t come out, the Warriors couldn’t afford him to. The second-year pro forced Kerr’s hands, scoring 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting, along with three rebounds, one assist and one block. Moody was a plus-9 for the quarter. 

Moody finished the loss scoring 12 points, one shy of tying his season high. His 23 minutes were a season high, and that’s a trend that has to continue. 

If Thompson, as well as Andrew Wiggins (0-of-4 shooting from deep), are going to continue searching for their shot and be negatives in many cases, it’s hard to find a reason not to play Moody. Let’s see if Kerr agrees, starting Saturday in a rematch against the Thunder.

GP2 Goes Down

As if life wasn’t already hard enough for the Warriors without Curry and Green. Early in the second quarter, the Warriors lost perhaps their best on-ball defender in Gary Payton II. 

Hustling as he always does, Payton tipped an inbounds pass from Chet Holmgren, caught his own steal and was fouled by Holmgren as he went for a contested layup. Unfortunately for Payton and the Warriors, the ultra-versatile left-hander injured his left ankle after the whistle. Take a look for yourself. 

Payton played on his injured left ankle for another minute-and-a-half, but during a timeout he threw his headband to the ground in frustration, jogged down the tunnel and was followed by director of sports medicine and performance Rick Celebrini. Payton never returned and officially was ruled out during halftime with a sprained left ankle. 

X-rays came back negative. 

The Warriors will have their fingers crossed this is a short-term issue. Payton’s ties so much together for Golden State, especially his ability to guard nearly all five positions at only 6-foot-2. His absence was a major blow last season, and his return to full health has been incredibly welcomed early this season.

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