Trading away Willie Cauley-Stein — in the works, but not official — is less writing on the wall as much as it’s an enormous sign plastered on that wall: The unloading has begun, and the remaining games mean little.
In the hours after the trade news broke Friday, Golden State still had a game to play. Without their best big man, who was cashed in for a second-round pick, the best that can be said is they now have one fewer game to go.
Apart from brief runs in the third quarter and a last-ditch fourth-quarter effort that cut the lead to six, the Warriors were always at least a length away from the Pacers at Chase Center, where an announced sellout of 18,064 watched the Warriors fall, 129-118, to the East’s No. 5 seed.
Here are some takeaways from their 13th loss in 14 games, which had some positives and one major negative:
Turning over the same leaf
Without Cauley-Stein, the rebounding actually was not an immediate problem. But the team’s focus with the ball was.
The Warriors (10-36) did a lot of things right: They banged under the boards, actually out-boarding Indiana, 38-36; they shot remarkably well, from the field (48.8 percent), arc (48.7) and free-throw line (82.6); 31 assists on 40 baskets is pretty darn good, too. But they couldn’t take care of the ball.
Twenty turnovers burned Golden State, leading to 33 points from Indiana. Meanwhile, the more veteran Pacers (29-16) coughed up the ball just 12 times. In a game in which both teams posted enviable shooting numbers, the actual shot total made the difference: 88 for the Pacers, 82 for Golden State.
As the Warriors have given some breaks to their greener pieces, D’Angelo Russell is ensuring every minute he’s on the floor is a showcase.
He barely needed to dribble, barely needed to drive, not getting to the foul line until the closing minutes. But his chucking is the best offense this version of the Warriors can offer.
In all, he shot 13-of-21, including 9-of-13 from deep, good for a game-high 37 points. It was the 11th time in 13 games he’s poured in at least 20. So many of his launches kept the Warriors afloat, even if they couldn’t exactly get the team into a comfort zone. Speaking of which:
Down 78-62 four minutes into the third, the Warriors switched into a rarely seen 1-3-1 zone. As Indiana mostly settled for failed perimeter shots, trying to shoot them out of the zone, Marquese Chriss hit a triple. Russell followed with his own to cut the gap to 10. In all, it was an 8-2 run over 1:20 that prompted an Indiana timeout. Granted, the shots the Pacers were getting were still good looks, but they stopped falling.
The Warriors switched up their defense following the pause, going back to man, but the momentum continued, Russell nailing a 3 that cut the lead to six. That’s as close as they would get, the Pacers — behind T.J. Warren’s 33 points — getting hot and pushing the lead to 96-83 with 1:37 in the third, which made Steve Kerr call time. It’ll be interesting to see if the Warriors employ more zone in the future.
For the first three quarters, Eric Paschall and Jordan Poole got a bit of a break, Paschall on the court 17 minutes but shooting a single shot, and Poole for just 11 minutes without a point. The starters carried the burden, Alec Burks’ nine points and Omari Spellman’s six the bench’s only contribution until the final period.
That changed in crunch time. Poole came out on a mission, launching a pair of 3s that inched the Warriors back into the game as well as getting fouled on a third attempt, quickly upping his point total to nine.
Paschall matched the output in the quarter, the duo combining for 18 of the Warriors’ 32 in the final frame. While the results have been a roller-coaster this season, the game and level have never seemed too big for either rookie. Kerr was not scared to give them valuable minutes late, a move that could pay off in the future.
A Super moment
Easily the biggest cheer of the night came during a second-quarter timeout, when the jumbotron paid tribute to the 49ers, who are heading off for Miami and Super Bowl LIV.
The run of highlights finished with the Warriors wishing the Niners good luck, with “Bay Area unite.”
Much of the crowd got on its feet, and fans in 49ers jerseys got some love on the big screen. It sure was nice of the 49ers to pick a down Warriors year to give the Bay something to cheer for.