Despite a cold 5-for-21 shooting night from Stephen Curry, the Warriors rallied in the second half to beat the Lakers to tip off the 2021-22 season.
Three months after the shortened 2020 season ended for the Warriors in the almost-playoffs, Golden State outscored Los Angeles 38-29 in the fourth quarter. Curry recorded the eighth triple double of his career, and first since 2016. Jordan Poole poured in 20 points and the bench added 55 to counterbalance monster performances from Anthony Davis (33 points) and LeBron James (34 points).
Below are three takeaways from the 121-114 win to kickoff the 2021-22 season.
The Warriors averaged 52 3-point attempts in the preseason, a rate that would obliterate the current record (45.5 by Houston in 2019-20). The Warriors may not reach that mark, but they project to be one of the NBA’s most voluminous 3-point shooting teams even before Klay Thompson returns.
GSW averaged 38.7 3s per game last year, fifth-most in the league. The Warriors jacked 39 more in the opener, hitting 14 (35.9%) of them.
They weren’t all pretty. On one first-half attempt, Jordan Poole passed up a 2-on-1 break to step back behind the arc and launch a partially contested 3 that missed badly. And Curry was uncharacteristically off the mark, going 2-for-8 from deep. He and Poole started 5-for-18 overall in the first half before the latter got hot.
But Andrew Wiggins hit a 3 with 2:34 left to give the Warriors their biggest lead of the night, 115-103. Like so many open looks, it came off beautiful ball movement, with LA’s defense keyed in on Curry and forced to react after ping-ping-ping passes. The ball found Wiggins wide open, and he drilled the difference-making 14th of the night.
Iguodala should help
As the clock dwindled down on an up-and-down first quarter, Andre Iguodala drove to the hoop and kicked out to a wide-open Curry.
Curry caught Iguodala’s kick with less than two seconds left on the clock and no one around him. The Warriors trailed, 34-32. The greatest 3-point shooter ever set his feet and released, but his triple clanked off the iron. He clenched both his fists in frustration.
Even though Curry missed, the moment served as a reminder of the veteran savvy and telepathic-level connection with Curry that Iguodala can bring in his return to the franchise.
Kelly Oubre Jr. has much more upside than Iguodala, but he never quite clicked last year with the Warriors. Iguodala’s synergy and institutional knowledge should be a welcome change — although Golden State would likely prefer the 37-year-old to play fewer than 23 minutes like he did Tuesday.
Going extra small
With Draymond Green on a minutes restriction and James Wiseman still recovering from his meniscus injury, the Warriors didn’t have much of a choice to go extra small. Still, GSW didn’t stagger Green and Kevon Looney’s minutes, meaning the Warriors trotted out lineups with Nemanja Bjelica at center when they both sat.
GSW spent much of the first half with its tallest player, Bjelica, listed at 6-foot-9. It’s a lineup configuration that saw plenty of time in the preseason, and when outside shots are falling it can be tough to match up with. But against the Lakers, it looked like the super-small lineup wasn’t going to cut it.
On several trips, Juan Toscano-Anderson was tasked with defending Anthony Davis. Davis expectedly took him to the low post. GSW eventually switched Iguodala onto Davis. But with Bjelica often assigned to the weakest opposing offensive player, there are always going to be mismatches.
But Golden State also started the fourth quarter without Green or Looney. Suddenly, driving lanes opened for Jordan Poole. Otto Porter Jr. and Damion Lee hit 3-pointers. They swarmed and switched defensively, drawing offensive fouls and forcing bad shots. Bjelica (15 points, 11 rebounds) stretched LA’s defense.
The five of Poole, Lee, Iguodala, Porter and Bjelica went on a 15-5 run — including nine unanswered points — to open the final quarter. They turned a two-point deficit into an eight-point lead.
The Warriors will likely avoid lineups without Green, Looney or Wiseman when at full-strength. But until then, the combinations will get chances to outscore opponents.