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3 takeaways from Warriors’ home stand-opening win over Detroit

© D. Ross Cameron | 2022 Jan 18

The Warriors started their seven-game home stand by breezing to a comfortable win over the lowly Detroit Pistons. 

Detroit led for 15 seconds shortly after the opening tip before the Warriors took control — their lead ballooning to as much as 34. 

Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry played with freedom, confidence and efficiency, as the Warriors (32-12) coasted to a 102-86 win. 

Here are three takeaways from Golden State’s victory. 

Golden State’s trust in Jonathan Kuminga increasing

Over his last three games, all while Draymond Green was sidelined, rookie Jonathan Kuminga averaged 19.7 points and 5.7 rebounds per contest. He scored 25 points in 25 minutes in the Warriors’ blowout win over Chicago. His effort, since his most recent G-League game in which Steve Kerr publicly said he didn’t run the floor hard enough, has improved. 

Golden State unlocked him by making him the ball-handler in pick-and-rolls, a situation in which he’s scored a league-best 1.47 points per direct screen (in a sample size of 28 plays). They also used him as a small-ball center occasionally, where he excelled. 

Kerr rewarded him for his recent play by tapping the 19-year-old for his third career NBA start on Tuesday. He said he thought it would be a good idea to see Kuminga play next to Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevon Looney. 

But more than that, the Warriors gave him the responsibility of checking Cade Cunningham, by far Detroit’s best player. It was a sign of trust in the rookie. 

Kuminga hit an early 3 from the wing, but picked up two quick fouls. Hamidou Diallo blew past Kuminga going from the right wing to the left, and Cunningham also dropped a 3 over him.

But GSW sent Kuminga out there again in the second quarter. He found Curry with a nice pass for an assist. He looked more aggressive on the boards, but still occasionally got caught ball-watching. He was also a bit overzealous on a closeout to the corner, biting on a pump fake.

Kuminga’s struggles continued in the second half. He picked up his fourth foul with an ill-advised swipe on the perimeter.

Kuminga finished with 12 points, a career-high 10 rebounds, and a team-high three turnovers. He capped his first career double-double — albeit an uneven one — with a late step-back 3. 

There are ups and downs in the NBA, especially for a player as young and as raw as Kuminga. Tuesday night shouldn’t change the Warriors’ excitement about him as a player. But maybe it should temper some external hype about him being ready to really contribute this year during a championship run. 

The Bros, splashing

At 6:14, Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry shared the court as the only two Warriors warming up. It’s a relatively new development; back before Thompson got injured, the two rarely put up pregame shots together. Now, they’re often the only two at a time in their half. 

From the right wing, Thompson swished a 3. Seconds later, Curry drilled one in from the left. It was poetry in motion. Arguably the two greatest 3-point shooters ever trading off, just them and the hoop. 

Then the game started, and for the first time since Thompson returned, he and Curry both had it going. It was glorious. 

Curry rediscovered his rhythm by going 4-for-6 from deep in the first half. He sat out Golden State’s most recent game with a hand injury and looked much fresher. After one 3, he froze in the corner, pausing before throwing both his fists up. 

Thompson, meanwhile, continued his five-minute burst routine and stayed as aggressive as ever. He sunk a 3 fading to his left after catching a side out-of-bounds inbound pass. Right before the halftime horn, he used a rhythm dribble to square himself and held his follow-through. 

Thompson scored a season-high 21 points — his first 20-point game since Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals when he injured his knee. Curry added a modest 18 on 6-for-11 shooting. They combined to shoot 7-for-16 (43.7%) from deep. Their efficient nights is a welcome sign for a Golden State offense that’s had its fair share of questionable moments recently (including a 17-point third quarter against Detroit). 

Draymond’s loud absence 

There’s no doubt the Warriors miss Draymond Green on the court more than they do in the locker room. He’s irreplaceable as a defender and offense-unlocker. 

But there certainly seemed to be something else missing when Green didn’t travel with the team on their four-game road trip. Something intangible. 

The Warriors went 1-3 away from home without Green, who’s dealing with a back injury that causes tightness in his left calf (he’s listed as out with a left L5-S1 disc injury recovery). Tuesday was the first time since he felt discomfort during warmups before the Cavaliers tilt that he was in the building for a Warriors game. 

After addressing the crowd from center court pregame, thanking everyone for “keeping (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.)’s legacy alive,” Green settled on the corner of the baseline and Golden State’s bench. He stood up the entire first half, pointing out Detroit’s defensive sets, celebrating big plays with his teammates and clapping during the action. 

The Warriors missed that energy. GSW were expected to handle the lowly Pistons easily, but sometimes teams need an extra kick to get up for these types of games. Perhaps Green provided it after a tough road slog.

 

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