Another entertaining, hard-fought effort from Golden State ended in another close loss.
Last season, it was a surprise to no one to see the Warriors in the Finals, and now, they are continually surprising more talented teams that visit Chase Center.
Friday, it was the Boston Celtics who who were forced to sweat out a 105-100 win, in a game that had no business being close at all.
It usually takes years to go from unquestioned giants to plucky underdogs, and yet these Golden State Warriors have made the transformation in a few short weeks.
D’Angelo Russell, who has been a constant since his return to the court, went for 10 in the first quarter. The only difference this time around was, he was uncharacteristically loose with the basketball finishing with a career-high, nine turnovers.
Many of them came on passes that were nowhere close without much defensive pressure. It was clear something was off, and that was before he started favoring his right thumb in the third quarter. He immediately went back to the locker room and didn’t come out the rest of the game.
This is just one more in the line of hand injuries that has plagued the Warriors this season.
First it was Stephen Curry, then Damian Jones and Draymond Green, now Russell and at one point Eric Paschall was getting his hand looked at by the trainer on the bench. Basically, if you’re making an impact for the Warriors on the court, you better wrap both your hands in bubble wrap.
Green called it disheartening to see teammates go down, especially so frequently:
“It sucks. I’ve said it before, you live that everyday, that injury don’t go away when you walk off the floor. It sucks to keep seeing guys go down, but we got that bug right now. We got to keep fighting … sometimes shit just happens.”
Paschall seemed to relish going against first-round pick Grant Williams, and scored on him at will. He finished with 16 points, on a variety of moves, to go with his eight rebounds.
Even with Russell playing just 25 minutes, the Warriors kept taking it to the Eastern Conference contenders. They held the Celtics to just 40 percent from the field, with the pair of Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker finishing a combined 14-of-42.
Steve Kerr called this the first game all season that the defense looked to be of NBA caliber:
“We played our best defensive game of the year, that’s what really matters. If you can make stops in this league, then you’re going to win some games. It’s the first night maybe all year, where I felt like we know what we are doing defensively. We just looked organized, we looked tied together… we were fighting.”
Although the Warriors were a freezing 5-of-27 from deep, their offensive rebounding kept them close. Namely, it was Omari Spellman, who played just 12 minutes but had seven offensive rebounds, leading the way.
The Warriors level of engagement was noticeably better, especially from Green, and that energy manifested itself into a nine-point lead after one.
Kerr said that while the team has embraced the underdog grind, the crowd has embraced the team for it:
“It’s fun and you can tell our crowd enjoys it. It’s one of the things I’ve loved about our home crowd not just in the five plus years I’ve been here as coach but going back 20 years ago as a player, Warriors’ fans have always appreciated high energy, hustle, toughness, and you could feel it in the building tonight. Our fans really enjoyed watching our guys compete.”
Green looked infinitely more comfortable in the new offense and had his second double-double of the season with 10 points and 11 rebounds to go along with four assists and two steals.
He had the ball in his hands more, but also in better situations, not just catch-and-shoots, and it showed in his aggression level, which was the highest it has been this season.
It’s been an experiment Kerr hasn’t had to do before to get Green those touches, while playing a more pick-and-roll heavy offense:
“Draymond’s at his best offensively when he’s in the middle of the fray. Whether that’s handling the ball, setting a screen, posting up, he’s really good facilitating and making plays for other people. So, there’s been some trial and error with how we’ve played him with this brand-new group of people around him.”
But in the end, the Celtics talent proved too much. An entertaining loss for all the Warriors fans in attendance — and the perfect outcome.
A long, four-game road trip awaits the Warriors now as they will not return to Chase Center until Monday, Nov. 25. Up first is a trip to the Big Easy for a game Sunday against the New Orleans Pelicans and the site of the Warriors lone road win this season.
Kevon Looney, Jacob Evans and Alen Smailagic will all be re-evaluated Nov. 20 for their respective injuries. The team will have a more concrete timeline then. Looney has missed every game since playing just 10 minutes in the opener. Evans appeared in just three games before his injury, and Smailagic has been injured since training camp.