Death, taxes, and the Warriors playing down to competition missing their star players. The only constants in life.
With the Lakers sitting LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook, it was all but assured the Los Angeles JV team would push the Warriors (51-29). And they did just that, until Golden State was able to pull away for a 128-112 victory.
When the opposing stars are on the sideline, the Warriors’ intensity and focus also checks out of the game. And no where is that more apparent than on the defensive side of the ball.
That all led to Talen Horton-Tucker, who came in averaging just 9.3 points per game, going for an absurd 40 ball.
Horton-Tucker could not be stopped all game, and the Warriors were forced to try to find any way to negate his impact.
Turns out the counter to the Lakers were for the Warriors to go with their own bench squad and sit veterans Green and Kevon Looney.
The bench gave them the jolt of energy they were sorely lacking, enough to push them over the top.
Every bench player who played at least 10 minutes not only had a positive plus-minus rating, but at they were all in double-figures, led by Otto Porter Jr who was a team-high plus-35.
Steve Kerr said with Andre Iguodala back, that second unit has been big for the team:
I really like our second unit, with Otto, Andre and Beli. Whether it’s with Klay or Jordan, you throw Gary out there. It’s kind of the grown up unit, they come out there and those guys really know how to play and the ball moves.”
That, and having Thompson essentially cancel out Horton-Tucker in the scoring column, as Thompson put up 33 points and shot 6-of-10 from 3.
It’s the second straight game with 30 or more for Thompson, and he’s looking close to finding his rhythm heading down the home stretch of the regular season.
He got up 22 shots, but almost all of them came in the flow and were open looks. Of course, he forced a couple of them, but that’s his game, as long as he’s not continuously hunting shots and ignoring his teammates like he was early in his struggles.
Kerr said he thought this was Thompson’s best game of the season:
I thought he took two bad shots the entire game out of 22. He took 20 great shots and he moved the ball on. When he wasn’t open, he just passed it. That’s really the key for him… If Klay is taking great shots, it affects our defense in a good manner.”
He was joined by backcourt mate Jordan Poole, who had 19 points and a career-high 11 assists.
Though Poole had his streak of 20-plus points snapped at 17 games, this might have been one of his most impressive games during that span despite not reaching the 20-point plateau.
Kerr said he was impressed with Poole’s patience:
Jordan was really patient tonight, especially in that first half. I think he had seven assists and only took four shots maybe, really tried to play that facilitator role.”
He only took a handful of shots before halftime when Thompson was cooking, but he wasn’t invisible as his vision and quick handle were creating a ton of open looks for his teammates.
Poole said that’s something he really enjoys, getting his teammates involved:
It just feels really good putting my teammates in really easy situations to score the ball. Especially getting guys going early in case the game gets close at the end, they got a rhythm and they’re a bit comfortable.”
And then when Thompson cooled off in the fourth, Poole ramped up his scoring.
Before the question was how he would adjust to being Thompson’s backup and playing when he wasn’t on the court.
But now Poole is learning how to be the perfect partner to Thompson as they share the court together.
Kerr said he loves coaching Poole because he continues to soak up lessons:
I think he’s gotten so much better, even in the last month or so. He’s become much more efficient with his dribble, he’s not over dribbling, the possessions are running smoother. He’s really coming into his own.”
And that may not change even when Stephen Curry returns.
It could just be the start of the Warriors new three-headed backcourt. Just in time for the playoffs.
The next time the Warriors take the court at Chase, it’ll be for Game 1 of the first round of the playoffs. They do have two road games left however in a back-to-back Saturday and Sunday against the New Orleans Pelicans and San Antonio Spurs.