Good to be back! As it were last season, I’ll be here to cover and recap games throughout another season. Now for the game…
In one of weirdest up and down flows that you will see this entire season, the Golden State Warriors actually lost to the new-look Chris Paul Houston Rockets. The final score of 122-121 didn’t actually speak to what happened to the game at all. It was high-scoring but extremely choppy, the turnovers filling up the screen in record time, and defensive lapses reminding us of All-Star Game level effort and communication. This was a preseason contest.
Instead, the main story of the game was injuries. Chris Paul sat out in crunchtime after spending the game struggling to move on his knee, barely creating separation and picking up 4 quick fouls. Omri Casspi sprained his ankle, Andre Iguodala was already out with a back issue, and most importantly, Draymond Green limped out of the stadium with a knee strain.
The issues don’t start anywhere, instead it permeated across the entire roster, including coaching. Even when the players were on the floor, after the first 6 minutes, the Warriors played like the first preseason game. They had 17 turnovers and played defense against James Harden and the plethora of Rockets’ wing shooters like they were allergic to the deflections and rotations that made them great. Stephen Curry reached and picked up quick fouls, taking himself out of the game. Kevin Durant turned the ball over 9 times and spend his time shooting shots that felt more like wanting kill shots than ones in the offense.
Steve Kerr, on the other hand, seemed to take offense by the effort the team was giving. He sat KD almost until 3 minutes left in the 4th quarter, leaving Kevon Looney in for long stretches in crunchtime, and said after the game it was because of his familiarity on defense. Patrick McCaw didn’t get a look until Nick Young finally stopped turnstile-ing himself into a straitjacket. It started with 11 total players playing in the first quarter, and ended without a lineup that had any rhythm.
So the balancing act will remain difficult in Golden State all season. Sure, if Draymond Green is diagnosed with a long-term injury tomorrow, then it all goes to hell. But given relative health among their core players, the harder issue comes with how they will manage through the slog of a marathon without offing each other in the process. Kerr wasn’t happy with the team’s conditioning and stated so after the game. On the other side, the players have also traveled across the world, then got back just this week and have had barely any practice time before facing off against one of, if not the best, team in the NBA besides themselves.
They are incorporating a much different bench yet again. To start early last season, the defense was miserable, with the team unable to figure out how David West, JaVale McGee, and Zaza Pachulia would play out their defensive schemes. This season, the issue on that end looks like it will be on the wings. Patrick McCaw looked good but barely played. Nick Young shot well but essentially gave all the points back on the backdoor cuts. Omri Casspi is still new. Iguodala’s absence hurts more when there’s no one to calm the bench’s movements.
The 2014-15 theme was the surprising rise of Steve Kerr’s offense. 2015-16 was the defiant need to defend the title. 2016-17 was the integration of Kevin Durant. After the first game in 2017-18, it’s looking like it’s a test of how long the Warriors can get back into shape and regular season mindset without burning themselves out for the long haul. The rest days can’t occur if players aren’t able to play the hectic transition offense and switching, manic defense at 35 minutes per game at a high level. Ultimately, it’s all first world problems.
Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant were decidedly below average in the season opener. As long as the Warriors have them in games down the stretch, they’ll head right back on track come Friday in New Orleans.