The Warriors were late getting in to Utah, mechanical issues with the plane delaying their arrival until about 2 a.m., leaving about 15 hours to rest, warm up and play a game against a Jazz team that has emerged as a top-three threat in the West.
Perhaps Golden State needed more fuel. Maybe the Warriors had an excuse for staying grounded throughout Saturday’s matchup. It’s also possible that the Jazz are a powerhouse that the Warriors are not, and Steve Kerr’s crew has a lot still to learn and unpack about one another.
The Warriors blinked and it was 14-0 and took a breath and the deficit was 19-2. They were never in the 127-108 blowout at Vivint Arena, their second straight loss sending them back to .500 at 8-8 and affirming Kerr’s words from two days prior: Right now, they are an average team and not a good one.
The flying-under-the-radar Jazz, meanwhile, were every bit the sharp-shooting outfit they are purported to be. The best 3-point shooting club in the NBA jumped all over the Warriors in going 6-for-its-first-8 from deep in building a 77-47 lead at the half. Donovan Mitchell (23 points on 9-of-18 shooting) led the way, but five of his teammates were in double-figures, too. Rudy Gobert needed just 24 minutes to register a plus-38 with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
The Jazz possess a corps that knows how to play together. The Warriors are not certain who should play.
Poole getting feet wet
With Kelly Oubre Jr. still not approximating the shooter he has been for much of his career, the Warriors could use a 3-point threat in their first unit.
Instead, their best 3-point shooter is being benched.
Mychal Mulder, who entered shooting .467 from deep, did not play Thursday and didn’t enter until garbage time against the Jazz, as the Jordan Poole experiment is being given room to grow. Poole had four straight DNPs earlier this month, and Kerr said he tries to not allow those to stack together; when a player is buried for a prolonged time on the bench, it’s hard to begin breathing again.
So the shooting guard from Michigan has seen more time and registered a minus-7 in six first-half minutes on 0-for-1 shooting, virtually invisible. He tried to find his game in the second half and finished with 10 points on 3-of-7 shooting. Better, but not nearly enough.
The playing-time complications don’t end there. The Warriors have been a better team with Kevon Looney on the first unit rather than James Wiseman, still seeking his spacing and how best to utilize his springboard athleticism. Yet Wiseman was in there again with the starters because, as Kerr said, he has to consider that the long-term vision of the Warriors involves Wiseman, Stephen Curry and Draymond Green playing well together.
In the first half, when the play was still meaningful, Wiseman grabbed just one rebound. He got plenty of garbage-time minutes and closed with 15 points.
The right Steph
Even on nights that the Warriors are barely watchable, Curry provides a reason to tune in. He’s walking history, and he made a bit more Saturday.
He is the best 3-point shooter of all time. And now the history books reflect that only one person in the world has made more.
A historic #SPLASH for SC30
— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) January 24, 2021
With a falling-away corner 3, in which the ball swished through as Curry’s back hit the floor, the 32-year-old passed Reggie Miller for second most NBA 3s of all time.
Miller had 2,560, and after Curry finished 5-for-10 from deep, the Warriors superstar now has 2,562 for his career. Only Ray Allen’s 2,973 triples loom.
On a night of plus-minuses so ugly they make manure look attractive, Oubre’s mark stood alone.
A player who will cost the Warriors more than $80 million because of the luxury tax does plenty else right, but shooting that remains ice cold nullifies all of that.
Oubre was a game-worst minus-29 with five points on 2-of-8 shooting. Would Damion Lee make more sense with the starters? Would Mulder?
Kerr was frustrated after Thursday’s loss to the Knicks because of the Warriors’ defensive efforts, but there were no lineup adjustments for Saturday. Will action begin to follow the anger?