Before the tip, the opening of Chase Center was a celebration.
But on the court, it was about the worst start possible for the new arena.
The Warriors went down 14-0 on predictably poor defense and surprisingly equally bad offense — and that was before Draymond Green went to the locker room three minutes into the game after injuring his right shoulder.
It got no better Thursday night, as the Los Angeles Clippers (2-0) walked all over Golden State 141-122.
D’Angelo Russell scored the first 10 points for the Warriors (0-1) to singlehandedly claw them back into the game. But he’d score just 10 more the rest of the game, finishing with a team worst minus-35. That was the theme of the night, and also looms as the theme of the season: Flashes of good, but prolonged stretches of bad.
Steve Kerr said that this is the NBA that the Warriors have been fortunate to avoid the past few seasons:
“It doesn’t feel good. Losing stinks. It’s no fun. This is more the reality of the NBA. The last five years we’ve been living in a world that isn’t supposed to exist. This is reality. Nine guys that are 23 and under—we’re stating over in many respects. We’ve got to be patient… We’ll get better, I know that.”
It’s definitely an adjustment, and what makes Thursday’s loss even worse was that they got dominated the way they used to do to the rest of the league.
The Warriors are the ones that used to go on backbreaking third quarter runs, instead it was the Clippers who put them game away with a 46-point third.
The Warriors used to wear teams down with their smart, switching defense, but they found themselves frustrated by the Clippers hounding defense.
Stephen Curry said that their weaknesses were very evident throughout the game:
“The easy answer is that it is one out of 82, but there is some glaring things that we need to correct if we want to win basketball games consistently… I think a lot of it is little things that are going to help us compete. Margin for errors is really slim so those we have to correct if we are going to compete. We understand that, we just have to do it.”
But even with the demoralizing loss, they got some clarity to a few roster questions.
One of them was who is going to guard premiere small forward talent in the league now that Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala are elsewhere. Glenn Robinson III got the first shot at it Thursday against Kawhi Leonard and looked pretty decent.
He stuck with Leonard on a few drives and forced him into using three or four moves. While he didn’t prevent him from scoring, but he made him work to get his looks, which is really all you can ask for against the MVP candidate.
Robinson did admirable work on defense, though the same couldn’t be said for the rest of the Warriors, especially anyone matched up on Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell. The pick-and-roll with those two was an automatic bucket; the Clippers could have run that exclusively and put up 150 points.
At certain points the Clippers seemed to feel sorry for the Warriors defense and shied away from it. Like when the Warriors had Jacob Evans and Omari Spellman in, the Clips didn’t even bother with the Harrell-Williams pick-and-roll.
It could also be because Williams didn’t even need a screen. He constantly baited Warriors wings into jumping and reaching all night, and lived at the line, going a perfect 11-of-11.
The effort was there Kerr said, it was more about the body language:
“I thought we got a little bit demoralized in the second half… When we started to get blown out, I could see some heads hanging. The guys closed the game playing hard and that’s what we are going to stay on them about.”
Williams finished with 22 points and was one of five Clippers with at least 15. It was just too easy for L.A., as they shot an absurd 62 percent from the field. The Warriors actually attempted 19 more shots than the Clippers, which is usually a key point of emphasis for Steve Kerr. But that all gets negated when your opponent is raining down shots on your head.
Curry said it was the help side that really put them in a big hole:
“They had a lot of passes early and most of their bigs were pretty much uncontested in the paint. And then you over-correct to that and they start getting hot shooting from the outside.”
Green on the other hand was more blunt:
“Our defense was atrocious. Everything. Off the ball, on the ball, pick-and-roll coverage, transition defense, it was bad across the board… I’m not a moral victory type of guy, I’m not leaving this game looking for something to build on. We fucking sucked, and we got to get better.”
And while it was jarring to watch the Warriors get dismantled with such ease, context matters—especially this season. The Clippers might be the best team in the West and it was the first game in this new era of Warriors basketball. And first games don’t usually go well.
A few bright spots stood out. Evans, who contributed less than nothing his rookie year, looks like a legit rotation player. He scored 14 points and hit 4-of-6 from deep, which matched his total number of 3’s from all of last season. He looked confident and unafraid, and with the shortage of actual playable wings on the Warriors roster, having Evans soak up minutes is not a luxury, but a necessity.
Rookies Jordan Poole and Eric Paschall don’t look out of place, either. Poole may have struggled with his shot Thursday going just 2-of-13, but he was not shy about jacking up shots, which is something the Warriors haven’t had off the bench since Leandro Barbosa departed.
And Paschall stuffed the stat sheet with 14 points, four rebounds, four assists and two steals in over 30 minutes. He had some nice passes out of trouble on the short roll and just makes solid decisions. The Warriors are going to lean on both of them heavily, but especially Paschall with the front court depth dwindling.
Aside from Green’s hurt elbow, Kevon Looney reaggravated his hamstring issue and left the game before halftime. His status going forward isn’t known, but this hamstring kept him out of the entire preseason.
The Warriors have a couple days to recover when they travel to Oklahoma City for a matchup with Chris Paul and the Thunder Sunday.
Stephen Curry went for 23 points and four assists, but also finished with eight turnovers as the Clips were content to double him for the entire game. … The 141 points are the most the Warriors have given up since 2010, and then there was this: