Golden State is still slogging through the NBA preseason. But at least one Warrior is in midseason form — and, surprise, surprise, it’s Stephen Curry.
Curry poured in 40 points in just 25 minutes of play on 14-of-19 shooting to lead his team to their first win at Chase Center, 143-123 over the Minnesota Timberwolves Monday night.
Curry got all he could eat with 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting in the first, and it continued to snowball from there. Monday offered a glimpse into the likely future, as the 31-year-old will have to shoulder a huge offensive load this season, with only D’Angelo Russell joining him as a consistent weapon.
It’s something new to marvel at for Russell:
“You get to see that from a distance, but to get to see that first hand, and just see how crazy that energy is throughout the arena. It’s crazy to get to be right next to it.”
Russell had 16 of his own, mostly on silky pullups, in his 25 minutes. Steve Kerr has said that the Warriors are going to use more pick-and-rolls, with Russell being one of the premiere pick-and-roll ball handlers in the league. But it was still shocking how many times they broke it out Thursday.
Curry said Kerr has adapted the motion offense to a slightly different one with their new personnel:
“It’s about principles, consistency and guys just having confidence that when they’re out there, they know they are going to be a threat… It’s just the natural way of our offense and how we play, I might have the ball in my hands a lot more. But it’s not really that different, it’s just if you have the ball in your hands, make a play.”
With Marquese Chriss as the usual roll man, the Warriors got a bunch of good looks out of it. And even Curry got the benefit of using them early and often, freeing himself for easy 3’s.
The Warriors got a ton of midrange looks and seemed to key on either getting to the rim or pulling up from the elbow. That in turn opened up their 3-pointers.
Instead of relying on the 3 to open up the lane, the Warriors turned to a more traditional approach, and it showed in the box score, as they shot 52 percent from deep on 37 attempts.
Chriss (8 points, 11 rebounds in 25 minutes) got the start at center. His play continues to force the Warriors’ hand in finding a way to keep him on the roster. As has been written by seemingly everyone, Alfonzo McKinnie is the only player the Warriors can cut in order to sign Chriss.
The system seems to need someone like Chriss, and Chriss said he’s feeling comfortable in it:
“Coach has put me in a situation where I can play and it’s easy when all I really need to be is the energy guy, set screens and get Steph open. That’s fun for me, being able to crash the boards and get easy buckets, rebounds, and all of that.”
They can also try and offload someone like Omari Spellman or Jacob Evans to another team, and get either no salary or a non-guaranteed contract in return. Though with their showings so far this preseason, it’s unlikely another team would want them without a sweetener thrown in.
It would seem telling that Chriss got the start alongside Glenn Robinson III, over McKinnie. And Robinson looked the best of all those wing options in the start with 13 points and five rebounds.
Jordan Poole looks like a legit rotation piece for the Warriors, as his offensive game is truly plug-and-play, especially with the Warriors bench lacking the way it is.
His defense is a work in progress, but so is everything else about the Warriors. Steve Kerr even went to Poole alongside Curry and Russell to end the first half despite none of them being taller than 6-foot-5.
Kerr said it’s the new normal since the team lost so much size on the wing:
“We’re obviously smaller in the backcourt than we’ve ever been, so defensively we’re going to be very challenged without Klay and Andre. But offensively we’ve got some shooting. We like our new guys… I feel pretty good about our ability to score.”
That lineup is nowhere near the defensive lineups the Warriors bench have been known for the last few seasons. But they can space the floor and score, and they looked more like an NBA lineup than most other Golden State combinations this preseason.
Poole’s 19 come on the heels of his 17-point game Saturday and is encouraging, not just because of the point total, but the way he hasn’t looked out of place, or overwhelmed on the court.
Rookie teammate Eric Paschall joined him in double figures with 11, and showed off his aggressiveness as he tried to yam on two different Timberwolves defenders.
The Warriors will need to count on both of them for rotational minutes in the regular season, and so far, both look up to it.
After two Chase Center christenings, the Warriors travel to Los Angeles to take on the Lakers Monday. It’ll be the second matchup for those two teams, and the Warriors will play them exclusively the rest of the preseason.
The injury list for the Warriors continues to grow as they were without two-way player Ky Bowman, Alec Burks, Willie Cauley-Stein, Kevon Looney, Alen Smailagic and Klay Thompson for Thursday night’s game. … Steve Kerr won his first coach’s challenge after challenging an out of bounds call in the second quarter. He immediately drew a technical on the very next possession.