The Warriors are hard to take seriously. Maybe that’s a harsh sentiment after a win that broke them out of an ignominious, 11-game road skid.
But as currently constructed, without Andrew Wiggins, this is a team leaves you constantly scratching your head, and one that doesn’t seem like it’s going to repeat.
Monday was a 121-108 win that ensures the Warriors won’t go without a win on a crucial five-game road trip and keeps them above .500 when they fight for their playoff lives.
Keeping it unnecesarily close
Monday was the night for Golden State to break out of its 11-game road skid. That’s not to discredit the Houston Rockets, a young, feisty team who have taken games off the Celtics, Lakers and Pelicans over the last two weeks.
But Houston is now 18-54.
They make mistakes constantly, and were not particularly impressive in any aspect on Monday.
But until a slightly hobbled Stephen Curry lured the Warriors out of their doldrums, this was a one or two-possession game.
There is a glaring level of sloppiness from this team that makes them exhausting to watch on the road. It boggles the mind to watch a team that won a championship nine months ago consistently display the critical problem solving skills of a toddler shoving a square peg into a round hole.
We’re at the end of this season. You would think that even without Andrew Wiggins, Gary Payton II and Andre Iguodala, this team would have some notion of how to play with each other on the road.
There are multiple times again when Steph Curry sends an outlet pass to someone who is completely unaware the ball is coming their direction.
It felt like another dozen times when the Warriors turned the ball over just passing around the top of the key.
They consistently forgot they had the option to drive to the hoop, or especially in lineups with the physicality-challenged and mistake-prone Jordan Poole, were just unable to do so effectively.
There wasn’t a stretch in this game when they looked decidedly in control until late. It was evident in the two styles of both teams that the Warriors had significant experience in significant games, but their execution was hard to find.
Golden State turned the ball over 20 times on Monday leading to 25 points. Against almost any other team in the league, that’s a death sentence.
And for the most part, that’s been the case. The Warriors will feel that they got a bit of the schneid off, but there was not much to love about their performance until the fourth quarter, when Curry gave them life and encouraged slashing, running the floor and intentional defense.
A (minor) Steph worry
At the end of the third quarter, after Jordan Poole got fouled on his way to the rim, Curry glanced his left leg off Poole’s head. It left Curry limping and Poole holding his head, grimacing.
Curry, who would normally continue for the rest of the third quarter, headed to the bench. Golden State and Houston traded faux blows to allow him to return with a four-point lead.
He immediately returned and offered the only semblance of poise anyone involved in Monday’s contest had to offer.
His first drive was a physical one through the hefty Usman Garuba going to the rim. A few minutes later, he drove and scored on at least three Houston defenders. Then he hit a 3 as the shot clock expired and hit a streaking Jonathan Kuminga to put the Warriors up eight.
Curry was his usual, excellent self. He had 30 points (10-of-23, 5-of-15 from 3), 7 rebounds, 5 assists, a couple steals, a block and four turnovers while playing through some late pain.
While you expect a substantial drop off in quality when he leaves the game, it just seems, at times, like no one else is nearly as interested in winning as he is.
That’s not to suggest guys aren’t trying. But when you watch the Warriors hang around for 36 minutes with a bottom-feeder, and not get a jolt from anyone but Curry, you just feel like he’s playing with more desperation than anyone else on the floor.
Both Green and Thompson have remained solid, and played well against Houston, but without Curry, Golden State too often gets into flows of lackadaisical play defined by a lack of intent and purpose.
Even Curry, with three minutes left, fell victim to that. He turned the ball over on a sloppy pass towards Klay Thompson at the top of the key with a few minutes remaining. But that came after he just about secured the game, and set up a few game-sealing 3s.
Kuminga showing promising signs
This has been a lot of negativity on a night when the Warriors finally won on the road. That should absolutely be appreciated, though the reality is that this team is almost certainly not a contender with Andrew Wiggins.
But… but! One encouraging development has been the play of Jonathan Kuminga. The 20-year-old is starting to find his role with this team. On Monday, he had 17 points (7-of-9), 3 rebounds, 4 assists, a block and two turnovers.
He’s been more aggressive on the glass, and on offense, he’s starting to understand both when and how to cut to the rim. His perimeter defense is more noticeable, too.
There are still moments when he looks uncertain, like he’s hearing a coaching point in his head and not taking a favorable one-on-one matchup when he could. But there is so much to love about his future after there were some concerns about his work ethic and intent as a professional.
He’s improving, even if his role still remains limited. If Wiggins doesn’t return, they’re going to have to ask more of him in the playoffs. There’s not enough yet to truly believe he’ll be a playoff major difference maker on both ends, but he’s getting closer.