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Warriors’ lineup tweak works perfectly, but that probably needs an asterisk


Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports


It is much easier for the Warriors to put on a show when they’re comfortable at home, returning to San Francisco after a rough rout in Utah. It is much easier to shine a light on the positives when they’re playing a team that entered 4-11, instead of playing competent Knicks and Jazz squads to whom they had lost consecutively. It is much easier for the Warriors to resemble a team that wants to make noise in the playoffs when that 4-11 team is not even playing its two best players in Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell.

There are plenty of asterisks to assign next to the new-look units that debuted Monday. And yet, it is hard to envision the starting unit looking stronger.

Kevon Looney’s entrance to the starting lineup paid immediate dividends and Golden State jumped out to a big lead it would not relinquish in a 130-108, brief-skid-busting blowout of Minnesota at Chase Center.

The pair of losses, which had dropped a promising club back to .500, had demonstrated the flaws in a starting five that had plenty of offensive firepower but not enough defense and not enough Stephen Curry. Switching James Wiseman to the bench to start the game in place of the veteran Looney was intended to space the Warriors (9-8) more and give them more stout defense, which went exactly as planned.

It was 19-4 four and a half minutes in. Curry had a pair of 3s, Draymond Green was throwing lobs for Andrew Wiggins, and Minnesota looked, well, like a bad team without either of its good pieces. Looney finished with just two points, but the Warriors don’t need much offense from him; they were a plus-21 with the big man on the court.

The Warriors gave another new look to close the quarter, mixing in Wiseman and Mychal Mulder — who had been out of the rotation the past two games, replaced by Jordan Poole — in place of Looney and Kelly Oubre Jr. That unit was not as effective, but the pieces are there to be interesting, especially if Mulder’s hot shooting can complement Curry’s.

Golden State was up 13 at the half and was never really challenged. Minnesota cut it to eight with 6:45 left, but after a Golden State timeout, Curry (36 points) knocked down a few treys to start a furious 27-13 Warriors run to finish.

A few more takeaways:

Exes

There was no Russell, whose short stint with the Warriors was so strange last season, when he was acquired to be dealt. (Although there was a “Thank You D-Lo” scoreboard message.)

There was an Andrew Wiggins who showed there are nights he can resemble a No. 1 scorer, even if that’s not what the Warriors want to ask of him.

Wiggins, who seems to play better in each game, was revved up for his former team and looked immensely comfortably with a casual 23 points on 10-of-19 shooting. With defenses keying on Curry, there are a lot of points for Wiggins to happen upon. Plus some for him to grab himself, like dribbling through his legs and rising right up for the 3.

He added six rebounds, three steals and three (big) blocks along, finishing a game-best plus-22. He was a scorer for the team he just torched. He’s showing a far more complete game with a team with far bigger goals.

Edwards Hopper

Anthony Edwards, whom the T-Wolves grabbed before the Warriors selected Wiseman and who likely would have been the Warriors’ pick otherwise, did not have his best game. His jump shot never came around, finishing 3-of-12 for 10 points, and never looked confident from the outside.

But one play gave a pretty good preview of how he could’ve fit at Chase Center.

‘Quese offering

Marquese Chriss, out for the season with a broken right leg, hopes he has not played his last game as a Warrior. The 23-year-old from Sacramento said he hopes he’s with the team next season, though he’s on a one-year pact.

“I love being here. I think the team loves having me here,” said Chriss, speaking before the game for the first time publicly since the injury. “But they’re going to make the decision that they feel is best for this organization, and hopefully I’m a part of that.”

 

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