© Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Well, for a moment there, you thought, ‘there is something intriguing happening with the Warriors right now.’ Whether it’s simply a matter of a few guys hitting their stride at the right time or carrying their weight when Stephen Curry isn’t… or just playing poor competition and capitalizing, Golden State seemed like it was on a little bit of a roll, in spite of Curry’s latest woes.
But alas. Curry stayed cold, and after battling back from a 17-point deficit, the Warriors collapsed in the waning minutes, allowing a 30-6 run from the Orlando Magic which sent them reeling to a 124-120 loss.
Still can’t get that third-straight
It’s a weird stat that’s hung over this season and typified the not-quite-clear identity of this team. With all the athletic, shooting wings, the potential for this team has always been relatively high, even with Klay Thompson gone for the year.
But it’s the inconsistency of those wings which has defined this campaign thus far and it’s exactly why the Warriors had not won three-straight games. On Friday, the loss was on Curry’s shoulders, as the Warriors still seem incapable of finding that third-straight win.
If that sounds like a less than stellar accomplishment, well, you’re right. After more than 30 games, they still have yet to get there, and on nights when Curry is missing more than he’s making, it all depends on Kelly Oubre and Andrew Wiggins.
For the past two games, as Curry has struggled, they’ve stepped up. Whether that’s a long-term trend or a short-term sign for encouragement, only time will tell. But right now, this team is moving the ball efficiently and looking as close as its ever been to finding that identity outside of Curry and Green.
Curry’s struggles are an anomaly, not the expectation. Maybe that’s the case for Wiggins and Oubre too, but their confidence and team-oriented play style as of late is a promising sign.
Those wings, and the two defining runs of the game.
It really is astounding how Kelly Oubre has turned his season around since that putrid start (okay, the 3-for-7 from the free throw line is less than ideal, but if that’s the worst part of his game, you take it). It’s his evolution which has defined the Warriors’ success.
He’s doing exactly what he should do; using his athleticism as a rebounder, to get out in transition and attack the rim. He moves the ball more efficiently than he did at the outset of the year and is getting in position for corner threes which his looking exceedingly comfortable taking.
And Andrew Wiggins, though understated as usual, has been another stable wing force.
Oubre put up 26 points on 10-of-18 shooting (3-of-6 from three) with 7 rebounds, an assist and a whopping 4 steals. Wiggins added 16 on 7-of-15 shooting, while both Damion Lee and Michael Mulder added 10 each. Wiggins, though, faded as the game went on, and his three-point shooting (1-of-4 on Friday) seems to be regressing towards last year’s levels.
Draymond Green’s return was palpable, as he continually set those simultaneous screen-passes for Curry, who just could not capitalize.
Tonight was defined by two runs; the Warriors’ 12-0 run in the third and a 18-of-30 third quarter shooting, and the Magic’s 30-6 fourth quarter run.
He was 8-for-25 and 5-of-20 from three on Wednesday, and on Friday, he was inefficient again, putting up 29 points, but on 11-of-28 shooting and 6-of-16 from three. Two of his threes came in the final minutes of the fourth quarter, when the Warriors had fallen behind by seven points far too late. He started to drive more as it was clear his deep range was off, to some success, but the Magic were excellent at closing the space around him, and he was not in his usual superhuman mode.
Is there cause for concern? Perhaps, but it seems absurd to worry about Curry, let along after putting up 29 points, 11 assists and 7 rebounds.
Curry being inefficient on a consistent basis is a death knell for this team, and losing to teams like the Magic (12-18), isn’t an acceptable route for sustained success. On the other hand, you could see the improvements from the supporting cast and be forgiven for wondering if Friday was a positive sign.
Orlando got outsized, hyper-efficient performances from Nikola Vucevic, who had a ridiculous triple-double line of 30 points (13-of-23 shooting),16 rebounds and 10 assists, and both Evan Fournier (28 points on 11-of-18, 5-of-9 from three, 4 rebounds, 6 assists) and Terrence Ross off the bench (24 points on 9-of-17, 4-of-9 from three with 4 rebounds, 1 assist).
Those are absurd nights for a combined 82 points from three players, with the Warriors still playing without a center. So while Curry missing threes is clearly not sustainable, there are still valid reasons to view Friday as far from an embarrassing loss. Yes, the Warriors are still fighting mediocrity, but let’s remember they remain a team without a player over 6’7″, and Vucevic was the clear result of that.