To prevent the Warriors’ longest losing streak since February of 2020, Stephen Curry reached into his magical bag and pulled out a magnificent performance.
The Warriors needed all of Curry’s 45 points — including 17 in the fourth quarter — to come back against the Kings and stop their skid. Golden State won Curry’s minutes by 20 points in a three-point victory.
Curry finished 17-for-24 (7-for-12 from 3) for 47 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. The vintage night engined The Warriors (4-7) to a 116-113 win over the Kings even as issues with the second unit persisted.
Here are three takeaways from Golden State’s narrow win.
Steph Curry, sensing the moment
Curry has played hundreds of more important games than Monday, Nov. 7 against the Sacramento Kings. But this one still had a different feel. The circumstances surrounding it necessitated one.
The season’s still only a month old, but a loss to the Kings would have extended Golden State’s losing streak to six — longer than any skid last year.
So Curry came out as locked in as ever. He canned his first six shots. He didn’t hunt offense for himself, but dominated in the first half.
The Warriors got crushed in the 10 minutes he sat. Even with his 22 first-half points, GSW trailed by 12.
In the second half, Curry played with a little more fire, particularly against the aggressive Davion Mitchell. One play, he got Mitchell in the air with a pump fake and hit a shot through contact, but didn’t get the call; he instantly went after an official and picked up a technical. A couple possessions later, he put his hand up after jacking up an ill-advised 3 with Mitchell draped over him.
Still, Curry settled in to cook Sacramento. He rolled his left ankle on an and-1 in the fourth but battled through it and willed them back from a deficit.
Curry’s contested 3 with 5:07 remaining ignited Golden State. He fought through contact to score through Domantas Sabonis inside. He tied the game at 107 with a ridiculous isolation and fadeaway off the glass.
Then his stepback 3 over Kevin Huerter — his 43rd points — gave the Warriors their first lead since the first quarter. His turnaround in the lane over Huerter made it 45. M-V-P chants rained as he iced the game with two free throws.
“I’ve never been more happy about a win 11 games into a season,” Curry said in his on-court postgame interview.
Lineup experimentation failure
After Golden State’s 0-5 road trip, Steve Kerr said changes were coming. He wasn’t lying.
Kerr telegraphed that Golden State would try sizing down with the second unit, and sure enough in the first quarter, a shrunken five of Ty Jerome, Jordan Poole, Klay Thompson, Anthony Lamb and Jonathan Kuminga got a chance.
It did not work.
That exact five wasn’t on the court for all of Sacramento’s quarter-closing 16-2 run, but it took the brunt of it. The idea is sound: spread defenses out with five players on the perimeter, with Kuminga acting as a hyper-athletic dive man. The best-case scenario is that should be potent enough offensively to make up for any defense and rebounding struggles that might come from playing so small.
The tradeoff on Monday tilted in Sacramento’s favor, although skunked layups from Kuminga, Lamb and Jerome compounded the unit’s woes.
Lamb and Kuminga both played well enough in the loss to New Orleans that they deserved some more opportunities. The inverse applies to James Wiseman and JaMychal Green, who haven’t found a foothold so far this season.
It wasn’t only the bench’s fault. The Warriors’ starters — with Poole in for Kevon Looney — allowed a 10-2 run to close the first half. The Warriors trailed 67-55 at half despite a nearly flawless Curry start.
But the bench is still a danger area, and Kerr will have to continue searching for the right mix.
Jordan Poole disappearing act
Poole is at his best when he’s playing confident. Sometimes it comes off as irrational or even brash, but he needs it to thrive.
And it was never in question last year.
But Monday, Poole passed out of at least three layups — Ben Simmons style. He hasn’t seemed right since getting called for three carrying violations last week in Miami; he got whistled for one more Monday.
Poole returning to his 2021-22 self would solve so many of Golden State’s second-unit woes. He proved last year that he’s capable of scoring with the best perimeter players in the league and can add potency to closing lineups.
But against the Kings, Poole scored two points in 22 minutes. He attempted four shots — as many as Looney. He had as many turnovers as assists and the Warriors lost his minutes by 12 points.
He looks like he’s lost faith in his jumper, and he’s even clanked eight free throws already; he only missed 20 all last season.
Slumps are normal, particularly for young players like Poole. But the Warriors might not be able to afford Poole playing like this for too long.