The situation was the same, but it was a complete role reversal on Friday night for the Warriors.
One night after taking a beating in Milwaukee by an Eastern Conference contender, the Warriors delivered the blows in Chicago against the first-place Bulls. The Warriors trailed the Bucks by 39 at halftime Thursday, then bursted out to a 31-point lead after the first 24 minutes in the Windy City.
The Warriors (31-11) scored a season-high 78 first-half points and never looked back in their 141-96 victory over the Bulls. Chicago star Zach LaVine exited early with a left knee injury, and the Bulls didn’t have a chance without him.
Andrew Wiggins led the Warriors with 21 points on 8-for-11 shooting, while rookie Jonathan Kuminga played a scintillating 25 minutes. Kuminga recorded 25 points on 12 shots, adding three blocks and a steal.
Here are three takeaways from GSW’s bounceback win.
Offensive swag returns
The Warriors that took it to the Bulls looked nothing like the Warriors who lost four of their last five. During that five-game stretch, Golden State averaged 96.2 points per game — 13.3 fewer than its season average. The Warriors shot 40% from the field and 22% from 3 in that stretch as their offensive maestro, Stephen Curry, looked lost.
But the performance against the Bulls made that rough patch seem like ancient history.
Golden State’s impressive offense came with a more varied approach, its stapled ball movement and a swarming defense.
The Warriors ran their split action in the half court to wild success, usually using Curry as a decoy to free up shooters on the perimeter or screeners slipping unguarded to the rim. Curry (19 points, 4-for-10 from 3) didn’t force shots as his teammates got hot.
GSW also ran more post-ups for Andrew Wiggins, who scored 20 points in the first half on 8-for-10 shooting. He used his bag of jump hooks over smaller defenders and at one point spun through a lazy Lonzo Ball swipe for an and-1 dunk. Wiggins post-ups should work against most matchups, given most teams don’t have the long defenders Chicago does.
Golden State dished 39 assists on its 53 made field goals, indicative of the style they want to play.
And the maligned aspect of their game during this five-game rut — GSW’s defense — turned up to force 14 turnovers. That turned into offense, with 21 points scored off Chicago miscues, including Kuminga’s steal-and-score.
In addition to all those positive signs, the biggest encouraging trend of all was Curry heating up. Him rediscovering his rhythm should be Golden State’s No. 1 priority, and his second half looked excellent. At one point, he turned to run back on defense before his 3-pointer from the corner rattled home. Vintage Curry confidence.
Poole as a starter
Some players are more comfortable starting than coming off the bench. For many, it’s easier to develop a rhythm when you’re on the court from the tip compared to entering the game cold. Jordan Poole might be one of those players.
Poole, relegated to the bench with Klay Thompson’s return, started again on Friday as Thompson sat the second night of Golden State’s back-to-back. He looked much more comfortable in the role, starting 3-for-3 from the floor and hitting his first two 3s.
The offense came alive on Friday, especially to start — a welcome sign. Golden State’s 37 first-quarter points were one shy of their first-half total from the previous night. Much of that had to do with Poole, who poured in 11 points in the first frame as a starter.
The signature play for Poole came as the first quarter clock ticked down. ESPN color commentator Jeff Van Gundy called out the exact set the Warriors were about to run — a fake pick-and-roll into a pindown for a shooter. They run it at the end of quarters frequently, Van Gundy said as the Warriors initiated the action. Sure enough, Poole popped out to the wing, caught Andre Iguodala’s feed and rose up with 3.7 seconds left. A perfectly executed play stamped by Poole’s swish.
Poole maintained his rhythm all game, dropping 22 points in 29 minutes and recording a team-best +38 in the box score. If he can start to find a groove off the bench, the Warriors would really be delighted.
Andre Iguodala’s sixth sense
Sometimes it looks like Andre Iguodala knows what’s going to happen before it happens. He seems to know where everyone is on the court at all times, how much space he has to work with and where to be at the right time.
Maybe 18 seasons and 1,215 regular season games will give you those superpowers.
Or maybe Iguodala has just reached a level of basketball nirvana. Because on Friday, he made an extraordinary play look nonchalant.
Guarding Troy Brown Jr., Iguodala anticipated a pass and blew it up as soon as it left the forward’s fingertips. Before even picking his head up, he flung a behind-the-back, full-court pass to a streaking Damion Lee. The pass screamed between two Bulls and bounced twice before landing in Lee’s hands in-stride.
After he laid Iguodala’s pass in, Lee’s eyes popped open in shock. For a moment, he was everyone watching the game — completely in awe of Iguodala’s instincts.
In 14 days, Iguodala turns 38 years old. He’s been so good for so long. So much so that he recently said it’s been too long. But as long as Iguodala wants to play, his brain will allow him to help his team.