Usually the Warriors are the ones in the record books for all the right reasons. After their 0-5 road trip, that isn’t the case.
Thursday night’s loss to the one-win Orlando Magic was highlighted by the Magic taking 31 more free throws than the Warriors and walking away with 23 more free points than the defending champions.
That’s the largest difference of free throws attempted between the Warriors and an opponent since April 13, 2013. That team won 47 games and lost in the second round of the NBA playoffs.
Golden State has gone on the road six times this season. The Warriors have lost each time. This is their first 0-6 start on the road in 25 years. The 1997-98 Warriors dropped their first six road games, too.
They only won 19 games that season.
The Big Three of Steph Curry, Clay Thompson and Draymond Green still matter a tad bit. With their 114-105 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, the Warriors now have a 27.0 winning percentage (10-27) when they’re without Steph, Klay and Draymond.
While it wasn’t the flight home the Warriors hoped for, they did leave on a positive note with their loss in New Orleans. Still, it was a stretch to forget. What stood out most?
Here are six takeaways from the Warriors’ 0-5 road trip:
Searching For The Poole Party
Whatever version of himself Jordan Poole is giving the Warriors right now, it isn’t the one they saw a season ago and it isn’t the one they opened their wallets for over the offseason. Poole looks uncomfortable. He’s pressing, and it isn’t helping.
“He’s trying too hard,” Steve Kerr said Friday night after the Warriors’ loss to the Pelicans. “Jordan is trying too hard to create every play. He’s at his best when there’s a flow to the game, he’s playing on and off the ball, getting some catch-and-shoot opportunities.”
Poole led the Warriors in points (20) and assists (9) in against the Pelicans. He also turned the ball over a game-high five times, made 27 percent (5-for-18) of his shots and drained 30 percent (3-for-10) of his 3-pointers. In the final three games of this trip, Poole committed 14 turnovers — one more than his 13 assists — and he went ice-cold from the field. Poole went 14-for-30 from the field and made five of his 22 shots from long distance.
Before that troublesome stretch, Poole was heating up. He averaged 21.2 points and 4.8 assists while shooting 50 percent from the field and 39.5 percent on threes in a five-game span from Oct. 23 through Oct. 30. That’s the Poole the Warriors badly need. He should be their No. 2 option, and second-scariest threat on offense.
While he remains a work in progress on defense, getting buckets should be his main occupation. When he’s doing so relentlessly and full of confidence, the Warriors can start to get back on track.
Kerr apologized to the fans in New Orleans. He again advocated for fewer games on the schedule to make sure the stars always are on the court. On Friday in the Big Easy, he had to do what’s right for the team.
That meant sitting Curry, Thompson, Green and Andrew Wiggins on the second night of a back-to-back. For Thompson, and possibly Green, that appears to be the plan going forward.
“Klay may not play in a back-to-back all year,” Kerr said Friday to reporters before tipoff. “He didn’t last year because of two straight season-ending injuries. Draymond missed half the year last year with a back injury, and we’re in the final stage of a grueling road trip.”
Previously, it wasn’t so clear what the Warriors’ exact plan with Thompson on back-to-backs would be. He sat the second game of both of the Warriors’ back-to-backs during the road trip, which is what we can expect, just like last season. For him, taking a seat came right when he started heating up.
In losses to the Miami Heat and Magic, Thompson averaged 23 points. He first tied his season-high of 19 points vs. the Heat and then set a new season-high of 27 points against the Magic. Between the two games, he splashed 11 3-pointers and shot 40.7 percent from there. If there was a silver lining to the road trip, it’s that Thompson started to find his shot and played strong defense.
The Warriors a season ago finished with the best defensive rating (106.9) in the NBA, and allowed the third-fewest points (105.5) per game. That team, that defense, is nowhere to be found.
Through 10 games this season, the Warriors’ 116.7 defensive rating is the third-worst in the league. They’re allowing the most points (121.4) per game, the most free throws (29.5) per game and are committing the most fouls (24.2) per game. Whatever the Warriors’ defense is right now, it isn’t a winning formula.
Playing the Charlotte Hornets, Detroit Pistons and Magic should set up a feast for a defense. But it’s the opposing offense who’s feasting on the Warriors. The Denver Nuggets have scored their season-high in points against the Warriors, as have the Sacramento Kings, Phoenix Suns, Pistons and Magic.
Defense is one part where the Warriors are missing their veteran role players from a season ago. Gary Payton II’s absence sticks out, but it’s about more than that. Payton, Otto Porter Jr., Damion Lee, Juan Toscano-Anderson and Nemanja Bjelica weren’t kids. They’ve been around the block.
Each had a voice. The Warriors’ young players, whose roles have increased by leaps and bounds, still are searching for theirs.
“Honestly, our biggest thing is just a lack of communication,” Curry said after Thursday night’s loss in Orlando. “You have two guys who talk a lot — Draymond and [Kevon Looney]. They’ve been around, they know they have confidence in what they’re saying, they’re loud with it. Our biggest thing in pointing out our youth is being demonstrative on the court.
“Communication not only helps you, but it affects the offensive team because they feel you’re all tied together and it makes them think a little bit. When it gets quiet out there, it’s tough to have confidence that you’re doing the right thing, that you’re in the right spot and then you’re one step behind, then you’re rotating late and then you’re fouling. … Collectively if we talk more, we’ll be in much better positions to defend.”
Getting in sync on defense has to be the Warriors’ main goal right now. Opposing teams are picking them apart, and fouling is their biggest hobby right now. The Warriors are going to put points up. But giving up these many points isn’t going to win games.
Following the Warriors’ loss in Orlando, Kerr sent a clear message to his team: Everybody is going to get a chance. Players are dying for a chance to prove themselves. Nobody took advantage of their opportunity in New Orleans more than Jonathan Kuminga.
The second-year player was given a game-high 38 minutes in the loss. That’s more than double what he had played all season long. He scored 18 points while going 7-for-12 from the field. Previously, Kuminga had scored 16 points all season long.
Whether it was cutting to the basket, playing strong defense on stars like Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson, showing a ton of energy and effort or simply making the right play, Kuminga did everything that was asked of him. After receiving two DNPs (Did Not Play) the two games before, it sounds like Kuminga should see himself back in the rotation.
“It was apparent who really played well tonight,” Kerr said Friday night. “JK played really well. He’s earned some minutes.”
As everyone wonders what has been going on with Kuminga, Kerr has hinted that he wants to see more out of the 20-year-old in practice. A lot of that is behind-the-scenes stuff. Kuminga doesn’t have the kind of leash that he would have on a team that isn’t contending for a title. But he has to be part of the equation, one way or another.
His potential is too high for him not to be. Yes, he makes a handful of young mistakes. So do others who are getting more chances. The Warriors have won off playing small and having athletic wings. Kuminga, as one of the best athletes in all of basketball, allows them to do so.
Back home at Chase Center, the Warriors return to game action Monday against the Kings and then don’t play again until they take on the Cleveland Cavaliers later in the week on Friday. Kerr has some decisions to make. Kuminga isn’t the only one whose role could look different.
“I think next week will be a great opportunity for us to get a lot of work in execution-wise on both ends and work on our rotations,” Kerr said Friday night. “We’re going to change the rotations a little bit. I’ve got an idea of what I’m going to do but the staff will talk about it in the next couple of days and we’ll solidify that. a good week for us to get back on track.”
Donte DiVincenzo’s strained hamstring will be re-evaluated, and his eventual return should help stabilize the second unit and allow Poole to be more than a shot creator. Fellow free-agent addition JaMychal Green might have to take a step back for Kuminga, and possibly others. In a little over nine minutes of action against the Pelicans, Green had a plus/minus rating of minus-11. Over the final three games of the road trip, he was a combined minus-48.
The veteran forward is off to a rough start so far. He’s shooting 23.5 percent on 3-pointers and has made multiple tough decisions and bad fouls at costly times.
Then there’s the James Wiseman problem. Though he only has played 49 NBA games, Wiseman has to increase his aggressiveness. His frustrations are showing, as seen with his technical foul against the Magic. Part of that is a positive. Get angry, don’t let anybody bully you around at 7-foot tall and more than 240 pounds. This is the Wiseman the Warriors need.
That might have been the best rebound-dunk sequence of his young career. And it was fueled by ferocity.
Two-way players Ty Jerome and Anthony Lamb excelled in the Warriors’ latest loss. Jerome scored 18 points to go with six rebounds and five assists. Lamb, in his first chance of extended minutes, started for Kerr and scored 16 points — including four 3-pointers. He was all over the floor defensively, came away with three steals and was a plus-16.
Jerome has been a steady presence every time he has been called upon. Lamb sure looked like an ideal Warrior, too.
RELATED: After 0-5 trip, Kerr has an idea how he will adjust rotations
Changes are coming while the Warriors wait for wins.
Surrounded by a road trip of negatives, Steph Curry reminded us all, as he has all season so far, that he’s still that guy. The player who took home his first NBA Finals MVP in June has carried over into the regular season. There are shots he’d like back, like his two last-minute misses in Charlotte, but it’s hard to ask more out of the 34-year-old.
Curry in the four games he played on the road trip averaged 31.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 7.8 assists. He shot 48.8 percent from the field and scored at least 30 points three times. His one game where he finished with 23 points, he had a triple-double with 13 rebounds and 13 assists.
In the nine games he has played, Curry has hit the 30-point mark seven times.
Steph right now is leading the Warriors in points (31.0), rebounds (7.0) and assists (6.8) per game. His peak continues to be pushed on a daily basis. As Dub Nation hangs its head in the dumpster, Curry is the guy who can help everybody see the light.
Even his Herculean efforts aren’t enough. That won’t stop him. The Warriors need to get back on track, and their all-time great will be the one to put them in that position.
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