Stephen Curry and Zach LaVine dueled, but it was the Warriors’ supporting cast that was able to provide enough for Golden State to turn a six-point halftime lead into a 26-point beatdown.
Curry’s 40 points on 9-for-17 from three helped the Warriors right the ship after 10 first-half turnovers, as Golden State pulled away for its seventh consecutive win, 119-93. Draymond Green played Robin with nine points, nine rebounds, seven assists and his brand of outstanding defense. Andrew Wiggins added 15 points opposite LaVine’s hard-fought 23 points.
The Warriors’ victory came in the eighth installment of GSW’s longest homestand of the year — an eight-game stretch in which it went 7-1 against undermatched opponents.
Here are three takeaways from Golden State’s 11th win of the season:
Early season test…?
Entering Friday, Golden State’s opponents had a .456 winning percentage, third-lowest in the NBA. GSW played the Thunder twice. They got the Wolves on a five-game losing streak. One-game winners Houston and New Orleans came to town.
So this Friday night game against Chicago, an Eastern Conference surprise at 8-3 with the third-best net rating in the NBA, set up to be an early season test. Or did it?
Without Patrick Williams (wrist) and Nikola Vučević (COVID-19), the Bulls on Friday were not the Bulls who have surged to the top of the Eastern Conference after two weeks. Even LaVine is playing through a sprained left thumb.
For the depleted Bulls, guard Javonte Green made his 11th career start. Center Tony Bradley made his 12th. With all of Chicago’s injuries, the Warriors were favored by 5.5 points pregame.
No team will fare great down two starters, but the Bulls played with terrific effort and made GSW uncomfortable — particularly in the first quarter. But the injuries were still too much for Chicago to overcome and too much to draw any significant conclusions from Golden State’s performance.
The Warriors are 11-1. They’re solidly in the top five in both offensive and defensive efficiency. But they still haven’t really been tested. Dominant wins over lesser teams matter. But discerning the truth about this team will only be possible when tougher, healthier competition steps in the ring. We’ll learn more about the 2021-22 Warriors soon.
The Bulls, even down two starters, are still a competitive team and the Warriors took them seriously. But the situation may have also given Steve Kerr an opportunity to play with some lineup options.
To close the last two minutes of the first quarter, the Warriors went with Curry, Andre Iguodala, Otto Porter Jr., Jonathan Kuminga and Nemanja Bjelica. They played the Bulls even, but created open shots and looked to balance floor spacing and versatile defenders.
Later, GSW trotted out Curry, Iguodala, Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green and Kevon Looney. They played Green and Looney together seemingly more often than usual, possibly trying to take advantage of Vučević’s absence. Still, that’s a lineup with hardly any shooting around Curry.
Kerr also went with a five of Jordan Poole, Moses Moody, Wiggins, Green and Looney in the second quarter. Call that a Funky Five.
The only thing in common with those three first-half lineups: Golden State hadn’t deployed that exact five yet in 2021-22, according to Basketball-Reference.
It’s normal for coaches to experiment early in the season. Teams need to see what they have in players and how they react alongside certain teammates. Expect only more lineup tomfoolery, especially when James Wiseman and eventually Klay Thompson return.
Curry vs. Caruso
With the clock winding down on the first quarter, Curry sized Alex Caruso up near midcourt. Before he could make a move, Caruso poked a high dribble away momentarily. When Curry collected the ball, he tried to go behind the back, but Caruso knocked it out of bounds.
The Warriors weren’t able to get a clean look because of Caruso’s stellar, individual on-ball defense.
Caruso is one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA. Before Friday’s game, Kerr said he was glad the guard left the Western Conference, and that he fits perfectly with Chicago.
Curry had much more success while being guarded by Lonzo Ball than when Caruso stood in front of him. Even the shots he made against Caruso didn’t come easily.
On one play in the second half, Curry ran Caruso into a flare screen on the wing to free himself for an open triple. The three put GSW up 68-51, then its largest lead of the night. But a few possessions later, Curry snaked around a screen, kept Caruso on his hip, but eventually traveled due to the Bull’s pressure.
In the end, it didn’t matter who the Bulls threw at Curry. That’s become the common theme once again, in Curry’s age 33 season. He dropped 15 points in the third quarter and it felt casual. His 3-point prowess bent Chicago’s defense and drained them emotionally to the point where they seemingly settled for 3s every trip down in an effort to match Curry. Fait accompli.