The Warriors look tired. Tonight marked the second-straight loss for the Warriors coming on the end of a back-to-back following a stunning loss in Miami, and concluding a stretch of five games in eight days.
Here are three observations from the Warriors’ 103-96 loss to the Orlando Magic:
“Just wait a minute well it kinda fell apart, things get so, Crazy, crazy”
The last two games have featured disappearing acts by the Warriors with very little time left. Last night, the Warriors allowed the Heat to get back into the game before Dwyane Wade made a game-winning shot that had no business going in.
Tonight, the Warriors just fell apart, losing steam at the end. But that seemed largely to be a product of the five game in eight day stretch that saw the Warriors fly from Oakland to North Carolina after a loss to the Houston Rockets, with one day of rest in between. After the game against the Charlotte Hornets, the Warriors had a day off before playing the Miami Heat, where Wade stunned them. Then, with no rest following last night’s game, the Warriors ran out of energy with no Kevin Durant or Andre Iguodala. Tonight marked the end of that odd 2-3 stretch.
None of this is all that concerning. The Warriors were simply out-hustled by teams who have little to play for other than to enjoy a win over the best team in the NBA. They attacked the Warriors when they were vulnerable, and the Warriors simply did not have the energy to finish the job.
As Matchbox Twenty, the alternative group formed in Orlando, Florida sang on “Push,” things can fall apart in the blink of an eye. The group sang, “Just wait a minute well it kinda fell apart, things get so, Crazy, crazy.”
No KD, some problems
Kevin Durant was “wiped out” today, hence why he did not play:
Steve Kerr on Kevin Durant sitting his first game of the season tonight: “He’s just wiped out. He’s tired.”
— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) February 28, 2019
While you think it would be obvious that one of the top five best players in the NBA is a crucial piece to a team’s success, prior to tonight, the Warriors had won 21-straight games with Stephen Curry and without Kevin Durant:
Golden State is riding a 21-game winning streak in games in which Curry plays and Durant sits. Could make it 22 tonight.
— Connor Letourneau (@Con_Chron) March 1, 2019
That streak came to an end tonight, as neither Curry nor Klay Thompson could find their touch, and the Warriors outside shooting hit a ghastly 22.5 percent mark tonight (9-of-40).
While Curry poured in 33 points, he was at his least efficient, going 12-of-33 from the field, and 5-of-17 from deep. Thompson, who scored 21, went 9-of-23 from the field and 3-of-12 from deep. Curry also led the Warriors in a terrible night for ball movement with 6 assists.
As a whole, the Warriors combined for a season-low 16 assists. Their previous season-low was 18 assists, but it’s not coincidence that the absence of Durant played a massive role in tonight’s abysmal display of ball movement. Without Durant in the lineup, Curry and Thompson were pressing for shots, and its showed in their inefficiency. This is all a long-winded way of saying, yes, the Warriors are much better with an MVP winner in their lineup.
Cousins plays well, with performance marred by finish
Before you blame DeMarcus Cousins’ end-of-game performance – in which he turned the ball over, missed a contested hook shot, fouled unnecessarily to send the Magic to the free throw line, and missed a late three that essentially ended the game – please recognize the fact that he kept the Warriors in tonight’s game.
In 32 minutes, Cousins tallied 21 points (8-of-16, but 0-of-4 from 3-pt, 5-of-6 from FT), 11 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 1 block and 3 turnovers. His -16 plus-minus, was, however, the worst for the Warriors, a product almost entirely of the fact that the Warriors were outscored 13 to 2 when he entered the game with 2:49 left. He had a -5 plus-minus before that.
Cousins exited the game in the fourth quarter with 6:29 remaining, and Jordan Bell stepped in well for him, playing with energy. It begged the question whether the Warriors were better off leaving Bell in the game, who, in that roughly four minute stretch before Cousins re-entered the game, played well after turning the ball over.
He tallied 4 points and 2 rebounds in that stretch before being pulled after fouling Nikola Vucevic. For the game, he had 6 points (3-of-3), 8 rebounds, 1 assist and 2 turnovers in 14 minutes. Jonas Jerebko played well in the final 6:29, in which he played, grabbing 2 rebounds and scoring a layup, and providing spacing (despite a 2-of-6 shooting night and missing his only three). It begs the question whether Bell should have stayed in the game rather than Cousins coming in, or if Jerebko should have been sacrificed for Cousins.
To be fair to Steve Kerr, this is digging deep into the minutiae of bench minutes and second-guessing the decisions of a coach who has secured three of the last four NBA championships. But it is an important question to have an answer to once the playoffs roll around. If Durant or Draymond Green pick up an injury or a suspension or foul out in some freak game, the Warriors will need to have a much clearer idea of who’s in and who’s out in crunch time. To figure that out though, they still have plenty of time.