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Three takeaways as young Warriors, Williamson provide highlights in loss to Pelicans

© Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Limited roster options results in standout performances

With both Marquese Chriss and Draymond Green (and still Stephen Curry) out, the Warriors were limited to nine players, which included the recently added Dragan Bender (10-day contract signed Sunday) and recently recalled from the G-League Alen Smailagic.

Those limitations saw impressive performances and wire-to-wire entertainment from some of the less predictable faces.

Jordan Poole carried the Warriors in the fourth quarter, finishing with 19 points on 8-of-14 shooting (1-of-4 from 3-pt, 2-of-3 from FT), with 5 assists and 4 turnovers. Ky Bowman and Juan Toscano-Anderson — in a career-high night — were the sparkplugs, though that might be understating their impact.

Bowman (15 points on 6-of-12 shooting, 6 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals, 1 block, 1 TO) was aggressive from the start and seemed unafraid to challenge the Pelicans in the paint.

Toscano-Anderson made another strong case for himself to hang around next season, with his long-range shooting the clear wrinkle missing from his defensively solid game. His 16 points (6-of-10 shooting, 3-of-5 from 3-pt) came with 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal and 2 blocks.

Damion Lee jumped out to a scorching hot start in the first quarter, scoring 15 points. But he was almost nowhere to be found for the rest of the contest. Lee had just three points in the second quarter and four in the second half to cap off an efficient scoring night (22 points on 9-of-15 shooting, 4-of-8 from 3-pt) that somehow felt underwhelming.

… But a Wiggins let-off came against impressive New Orleans offense

This was probably the first time Andrew Wiggins has failed to show up in his Warriors tenure. He was a terribly inefficient 3-of-16 with just 8 points. He had 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal and 2 blocks on just 1 turnover, so he wasn’t exactly nonexistent. But on a night when the Pelicans hit 40.5 percent of their threes and 46.9 percent of their field goals, it was inopportune.

No one on Golden State had an answer for Zion Williamson (more on him below), Jrue Holiday or Nico Melli. Holiday constantly probed inside and was just as deadly from three, scoring 23 points on 10-of-17 shooting (3-of-7 from 3-pt), along with 7 rebounds and a season-high 15 assists (5 turnovers) plus a block.

A frequent recipient of those assists was Melli, who missed a single shot. That was particularly problematic, given that seven of his eight attempts came from three (he had 20 points, making six threes), along with 5 rebounds.

Considering the limitations the Warriors had, it wasn’t a poor performance by any stretch. But given the Pelicans’ efficiency, they couldn’t afford an offensive absence from Wiggins, plus their questionable 3-point shooting (11-of-35).

Zion Williamson did not disappoint

I know, the Warriors have a fantastic rookie of their own who’s also very athletic and simultaneously quite skilled. But pretending the Zion Williamson show isn’t the most entertaining thing in the NBA is farcical.

The man has no business defying gravity the way he does, or doing this once-a-game routine of ruthlessly stripping his opponent of the ball. Below is your Zion Williamson (28 points on 13-of-20 shooting, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block) against the Warriors recap:

He also displayed this Carmelo Anthony-esque jab step which sent the always-clumsy, always-entertaining Alen Smailagic on his way.

Then, there was this. The video is impressive, but doesn’t do justice to the noise this dunk made in person. The contact with the rim sounded like the eruption of a medium-sized firework.

Extra note: Dragan Bender’s debut shows frustrations

Bender was the fourth overall pick by the Phoenix Suns in that same 2016 Draft as Marquese Chriss (No. 8 overall). He showed brief moments on Sunday of his upside — the size, the shooting, the agility for a 7’0″ stretch four — but was far too wasteful.

He had 6 points, but it came on 2-of-8 shooting (2-of-5 from 3-pt), 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 block. He wasn’t bad, but his positional awareness was concerning and his shot-making can’t continue with that same level of inefficiency if he’s to remain with the Warriors.


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