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3 takeaways from the Warriors’ ugly home loss to San Antonio

© Stan Szeto | 2021 Dec 4

For 38 minutes, the Spurs always had an answer. A second or third-chance bucket to quell a min-run. A contested 3 that somehow dropped to return their lead to double digits. A prayer at the shot clock buzzer to kill momentum. 

But then the Spurs went ice cold from deep and spent over five minutes without scoring, Stephen Curry hit a flurry of 3s and the Warriors went on a 27-6 run. As well as the Spurs played, they couldn’t hold off the Warriors forever. An early 22 point Spurs advantage turned into a Warriors lead late. 

Still, Curry couldn’t close the game and the Spurs rallied back to end Golden State’s 11-game winning streak in the Chase Center. The 112-107 loss came on the second night of a back-to-back for the Warriors (19-4), and it looked like it. 

Here are three takeaways from the ugly loss:

Bruce Banner Curry 

If “Angry Steph” a week ago against the Clippers was the Hulk, the Curry that showed up on Saturday was Bruce Banner. Ignoring his shooting line, he at times looked uncharacteristically passive. 

On a play in the third quarter, Curry drew Doug McDermott on a switch on the perimeter. Instead of taking the plodding forward off the dribble, Curry gave the ball up to Draymond Green in the middle to play a two-man game with Jordan Poole. When the Spurs blew that action up, Curry freed himself with a nice off-ball cut, but missed an open 3. 

Even when Curry was off, he didn’t lose confidence. He never does. But when he checked back into the game with 3:49 in the third quarter, his Warriors trailed 88-71 and he was 1-for-14 from the field. Nonetheless, he stepped into another 3, which rimmed out. 

Then he hit a 3 after setting his feet, creating space by rejecting a screen. Then he hit another one, this one more contested. And as the horn went off to signal the fourth quarter, he rose up from the logo. He wasn’t fuming at a technical foul call, but Hulk looked like he was back. 

Curry started 1-for-15 before those three. After the mini burst, he went cold again in the fourth, and finished 7-for-28 and 5-for-17 from deep. Golden State needed the Green Guy.

Make Or Miss League 

Jeff Van Gundy wasn’t on the call Saturday, but his voice metaphorically rang throughout the first half, every time the Spurs hit a contested 3. 

San Antonio hit eight of its first 13 3-point attempts. Lonnie Walker IV, a 28% shooter, hit two as he racked up 18 points in 16 first-half minutes. Keldon Johnson, showing out for both his USA Basketball coaches on the sideline, hit his first two attempts. 

The Spurs attempt the fewest 3s per game in the NBA and by percentage, SAS ranks 16th at 34.5%. But in the Chase Center, the Spurs hit eight 3s in the first half, just shy of their average per game (9.9). 

The Warriors weren’t playing poor defense necessarily, but in the Make Or Miss League, a hot team can ride scintillating shooting, as the Spurs did in a first half in which they led by as much as 22 and took a nine-point lead into halftime. 

The oversimplified saying manifested then, as it did in the second half. That’s when the Spurs reverted back to themselves. Tyus Jones missed the easiest look of his life. Dejounte Murray and Keldon Johnson missed wide open 3s. Derrick White threw up a brick. And that was all just in the fourth quarter. 

When the Spurs went ice cold from deep, they just couldn’t score at all. Before Johnson scored inside to give SAS a 103-101 edge, the Spurs hadn’t scored in over five minutes of game time. The makes dried up, and the misses nearly killed San Antonio’s upset hopes. But they banked enough first-half 3s to end GSW’s home winning streak.

Damion Lee stepping up 

Is it possible to overuse a cliché so egregiously it eventually loses its status as a cliché. Because the Warriors’ Strength in Numbers ™ is very, very real. So real, it’s impossible to ignore just about every game. 

On Saturday, the biggest unsung hero to represent GSW’s “Numbers” was Damion Lee. With Andre Iguodala and Otto Porter Jr. injured, and Moses Moody and Jonathan Kuminga assigned to Santa Cruz, the onus was on Lee. 

Lee contributed on the boards and hit a pair of 3s. When given the opportunity, he slashed to the cup. Lee, who scored 14 points and hauled in seven rebounds, played well enough to earn a spot in GSW’s closing lineup. The forward showed he’s another player Steve Kerr can rely on, but the Warriors could’ve used a few more numbers on Saturday.

 

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