It’s tough to find a better word to describe what happened tonight than “weird.” Just ask Kevin Durant.
“It was a weird game. Early on we missed two, like, point-blank layups, couple wide open threes. And the end of the first quarter was weird. We threw the ball away twice, they hit two wide open threes,” said the Warriors’ prize free agent, who scored 27 points and grabbed 10 rebounds but found himself playing garbage time minutes in a 129-100 loss to San Antonio.
“It’s a slap in the face, woke us up a bit, and looking forward to getting better.”
Who thought the Warriors would lose to this Spurs team at home, let alone get obliterated?
“No, I didn’t see losing by 29 points. We had a pretty good camp and a pretty good exhibition season, but that doesn’t really mean a whole lot,” Steve Kerr said.
“You can tell that we are still searching for our rotations and our patterns and who is going to play with whom.”
They’re also looking for rebounds after this one. The Spurs held the advantage there by 20, but the 55-35 edge wasn’t even the main story. San Antonio rebounded 21 of their 51 misses, with the Warriors only securing 27 defensive rebounds as a team. That’s just as embarrassing as their overall defensive effort, which was nonexistent.
“I saw a lot of things that really weren’t us. Kawhi got to his right hand every single play, which if you get him going left he’s a completely different player. I’m not saying he isn’t a good player, but it’s a completely different ballgame when you get him going to his left hand. We didn’t do that,” said Draymond Green.
“LaMarcus got a lot of everything, pretty much anything that he wanted. And most importantly, not so much just one-on-one matchups … I mean, we gave up a lot of offensive rebounds. So even when we be making a run, we get a stop and then they get the offensive rebound. If you don’t close out the possession, the first stop is pointless. And that also stops our fast break, which is the way we want to play. We’ve got to rebound the basketball. 20 offensive rebounds? That’s horrible. That’s 20 times that we didn’t get out on the break. That’s probably, taking away from this team? At least 30 points.”
I’ve probably gone on too long before throwing out the obvious “first take” after watching this game. It’s just one game. In October. With a roster that’s almost half new against a team that knows what they’re doing, a team that had plenty of motivation to smack this “Super Team” around after no one said a thing about them once they got knocked out of the second round by Kevin Durant’s former team.
But for just one game, we saw plenty to wonder about and stew over until their next one, on Friday in New Orleans. First, the rebounding problem that Green harped on is a little concerning, since he and Durant combined for 22 of the team’s 35 rebounds. They did their jobs — in that specific area, at least. So what about the rest of the team? Zaza Pachulia, who didn’t exactly make a mark in his 20 minutes, grabbed three. Klay Thompson had a horrendous game and his stat line (11 points on 5-of-13 shooting, 1 rebound, 2 assists) was reminiscent of the former Warrior who signed a max deal this past summer with the Mavericks.
The bench had seven rebounds in about 90 minutes of action. It was a weird night for the reserves, as Andre Iguodala was a -28 and in just 13 minutes Ian Clark was -29. Iguodala’s presence with the rest of the newfangled “Death Lineup” (Life After Death? Afterlife? Comatose?) didn’t seem to help, as that group was a net negative on the night. David West committed 4 of the Warriors’ 16 turnovers in just 11 minutes. Shaun Livingston, strangely, played only 13 minutes.
Who’s going to rebound other than Durant and Green? Who’s going to score off the bench? These are probably the biggest questions to come out of tonight’s game, other than this one: How the hell can a “Super Team” get blown out on their own floor on opening night?
It’ll take a while to find out whether this was just an instance when overconfidence and unfamiliarity clouded an otherwise fantastic team’s opening night. Or, it’ll just take us one game if they beat the Pelicans by 30. But until then, the doubters (translation: overzealous talk show hosts) will have a field day, and Golden State gave them all the material they could’ve hoped for.
“San Antonio was great. They played a phenomenal game. We saw their best stuff. That’s a great team. That’s a team that exposed some of our weaknesses,” said Kerr.
“We are a smaller team than we were last year.”
— The Warriors lost every single quarter tonight. That’s hard to do, even for the NBA’s worst teams.
— Green was tagged with his first technical foul of the season, and the call was questionable considering he was fairly demonstrative after a dunk but not exactly over-the-top rude to an official or even LaMarcus Aldridge (who was in the general vicinity). He should be on notice, however. Reputations are hard to lose, and quotes like this won’t endear him to the establishment.
“Next time I dunk, I’m gonna yell again. It’s kind of universal, so … I’m going to continue to be me and whatever happens, happens. It’s not really a focus of mine, not being me. I know how to be me way better than I know how to be anyone else. So I’ll just continue to try to work on being me, which really don’t take much work.”
— The Warriors showed some defensive intensity for the first two minutes, and not much thereafter.
— Durant led the team in minutes (36:36), points and blocks (2) while committing no turnovers. Steph Curry had a few flashes where he looked like his old self and was probably the only Warrior who attacked the basket with any regularity. But Kawhi Leonard (35 points, 15-for-15 from the line, 5 steals) looked more like an MVP than either of them.
— Last season, Curry was an island unto himself. More like a planet, actually, with the rest of the Warriors as moons that benefitted from Curry’s gravitational pull. With Durant around, they’ll have to figure out how much Curry should handle the ball. That will be easy. Getting the entire team to defend and rebound might take a little longer, but that’s why Kerr’s job was never going to be easy this year.