© Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
The Warriors stymied the visiting Indiana Pacers to a 112-89 win. Here are four thoughts.
Nearly a season-best defensive performance fuels blowout win
This had all the makings of a letdown game. The Warriors just finished a successful four-game road trip with wins over the Rockets, Thunder, and Timberwolves. The upcoming three-game home stand doesn’t feature many sexy names: Pacers, Mavericks, and Pistons. In a game like Thursday’s, featuring a gritty team without its top player, the hangover could have easily set in.
It did not. The Warriors played determined defensive basketball from the tip, making everything difficult for the offensively challenged Pacers. Golden State’s rotations were quick. Seemingly every shot was contested. The Pacers scored just four fast break points.
The Warriors held the Pacers to 24 percent shooting and 19 points in the first quarter. By halftime, that percentage crept to just 32.7 percent.
The Warriors didn’t reciprocate that excellence on the offensive end — at least at first. This kind of stingy defensive night would typically mean the Warriors lead by 20 at halftime. But Klay Thompson missed his first five shots early in the first quarter. Stephen Curry did not attempt a shot until nearly nine minutes in — a missed three-pointer. The Warriors scored just 19 points in the opening period. They led by 10 entering halftime.
The fireworks wouldn’t set off until the third quarter. Curry started the period the way he finished it: with a made three. He connected on two threes from deep in the opening minutes, which opened up the offense. Golden State outscored the Pacers 35-19 in the third quarter, extending the lead to 88-62 entering the fourth. The Warriors allowed their defense to lead into their offense, scoring 20 fast break points in total.
The Pacers’ 89 points are the second-fewest for a Warriors opponent this season. They have seemed to turn a corner, from an intensity perspective, with the playoffs looming about three weeks away.
Boogie looks fresh
The last time Cousins played the Pacers was the first time he fully looked like the Cousins of old. It was the fifth game of his 2019 season. He had 22 points, six rebounds, and four assists in an uber-efficient 25 minutes.
Cousins was similarly aggressive Thursday, his second matchup with the Pacers this season. He looked fresh after sitting out the previous two games due to a sore foot. The Warriors have been overly cautious with Cousins, easing him back from his Achilles injury and gradually extending his minutes, which is why the recent two-game hiatus was not surprising.
Thursday night proved that resting Cousins was the right call. He was the team’s spark plug in a low-scoring first quarter. He tallied six points and three rebounds in the opening period.
Cousins maintained high energy throughout the game. There were the typical mini tantrums — he disagreed with a foul call and waved his hand at the Warriors bench when he saw Kevon Looney check in to replace him midway through the third quarter. But most of it was positive, whether he was attacking Myles Turner off the dribble or protecting the rim.
It’s worth noting that with Golden State’s consistent struggles with long, active centers, Cousins has dominated Turner in both matchups. Turner was limited to just four points and six rebounds on 2-10 shooting Thursday night. Meanwhile, Cousins connected on eight of 12 shots for a team-leading 19 points and 11 rebounds.
Bogut returns to Oracle
One of the Warriors’ best defensive performances fittingly marked Andrew Bogut’s return to Oracle Arena. Prior to the game, Steve Kerr lauded Bogut for implementing the defensive-mindedness that allowed the Warriors to begin the organizational transformation back in 2012.
Kerr expected Bogut to receive a “raucous” ovation Thursday night — and he was right.
Prior to the game, a video with Kanye West’s “Homecoming” played on the overhead scoreboard. Bogut waved to the crowd, drawing an ovation. When he checked into the game for the first time, at the 1:46 mark in the first quarter, the ovation returned.
Standing ovation in Oracle as Andrew Bogut checks in for the first time pic.twitter.com/IlSKBed4Ao
— KNBR (@KNBR) March 22, 2019
Bogut wouldn’t have the statistical night to accentuate a memorable return. He made one of six shot attempts in nine minutes played. But he did snag seven rebounds.
Kerr opens the bench early
By the end of the first quarter, 11 Warriors players had checked into the game. That did not include Jordan Bell, who made a fourth-quarter appearance. Kerr is clearly trying to tinker with varying personnel and see which players work best with each other.
Curry and Draymond Green are back to playing almost exclusively with each other, the result of a lethal two-man game in pick-and-roll situations. Cousins generally likes to play with at least one additional big man on the floor. Now Kerr is figuring out how to maximize Bogut, while finding the right times to deploy guys like Jonas Jerebko, who had his second straight efficient shooting night.
The No. 1 storyline for the rest of the season is likely Golden State’s path to the No. 1 seed. But watching how Kerr deploys different lineups, and with what frequency, is important to monitor ahead of the playoffs.