Warriors: Week In Review, April 11-17, 2021
(originally written 4/19/21)
116-107 win vs Denver 4/12
147-109 win at Oklahoma City 4/14
119-101 win at Cleveland 4/15
119-114 loss at Boston 4/17
The Warriors entered play 4/12 with a 25-28 record, good for 10th in the Western Conference by a game over the New Orleans Pelicans. By 4/19, they'd jumped to 9th place at 28-29 despite playing the whole week without newly-injured C James Wiseman and G Kelly Oubre.
In between...let's just say it wasn't dull.
The talented but much-maligned Wiseman injured his meniscus on a failed dunk attempt 4/10, underwent surgery 4/15, and won't return this season. Oubre, meanwhile, spent the week nursing a sore wrist which was also injured on a dunk attempt 4/9. F Eric Paschall (hip) also spent the week on the sidelines.
That's some 37 nightly points absent from the Warriors' lineup. Not ideal for a team trying to at least claw its way back to .500 during the season's final weeks, is it?
Despite the missing contributors, Golden State won three of four games last week and led by as many as 16 in the game it lost. Kicking off the week was a chippy-at-times affair with the playoff-bound Denver Nuggets (who may have been on edge due to playing the night before.)
What stood out about this game, at least until the final minute: Nuggets G Will Barton was virtually a non-factor. If you've regularly indulged in Warriors basketball for the past decade or so, you've witnessed Barton slice the Warriors up many, MANY times, but on this night he contributed just nine points to Denver's cause. (I was STUNNED to learn Barton's career PPG against Golden State is just 12.0; I'd have bet money it was 20+ PPG.)
Now, about that final minute: star Nuggets G Jamal Murray tore his ACL driving to the basket untouched while the game was all but decided. Yeah, there was the aforementioned chippiness in this game—Denver F JaMychal Green literally threw Warriors F Damion Lee to the floor in the late 3Q, and a few minutes later Denver G Monte Morris exchanged angry words with Warriors F Juan Toscano-Anderson after the latter's dunk.
But it goes without saying that nobody wanted anybody, especially a bright young star such as Murray, to end up hurt. Warriors F Andrew Wiggins was among the many who wished Murray a full, speedy recovery on Twitter the next day.
Warriors legend Stephen Curry finished with 53 points in 35 minutes against Denver, including a 1Q layup that vaulted him ahead of the late, great Wilt Chamberlain atop the franchise's all-time scoring list. F Draymond Green added a season-high 18 on 7-of-8 shooting (including two triples).
Two days later, the Warriors flirted with history against the mysterious crew of unknowns passing themselves off as the Oklahoma City Thunder these days. Golden State's 50-point 3Q against the Thunder was the first of this NBA season, and the sixth in franchise history.
The Dubs also had a shot at breaking their single-game record of 24 three-pointers, which was set in October 2018 and tied in January 2019. But even though they entered the 4Q with 22 threes, they also entered the 4Q with a 42-point lead, leaving the record-breaking task up to their ice-cold bench. In the end, Golden State settled for tying the record once more.
Green enjoyed a triple-double (12 points, 10 rebounds, 16 assists) at OKC, and Curry poured in 42, including 11 threes.
Twenty-four hours later, it was off to face Cleveland at Quicken Loans Arena. Remember last decade when the Warriors and Cavaliers met four straight years in the NBA Finals? Fun times. These teams are radically different now—there's only a smattering of dudes left on either team who participated in any of those Finals. But because one of those dudes was Curry, Golden State was able to recover from an uninspired start and dominate the final three quarters in Cleveland.
While Curry scored 47 points, he began 0-for-8 on threes (including multiple bad misses) and didn't nail one until late in the 3Q. Tonight's star, in a way, was Toscano-Anderson; the 2nd-year swingman was good on his first eight shots and finished with a career-high 20 points in 31 minutes. Wiggins chipped in 23 points including five threes, and reserve guards Lee and Jordan Poole combined for 25 more.
But what I really took away from this game: Cavs F/C Kevin Love, a five-time All-Star, doesn't seem like he can play anymore. Against the Warriors, he moved as if in mud, and basically all he did was stand around and hoist bricks from beyond the arc (2-of-10 shooting including 1-of-7 on threes). Love, 32 and in his 13th season, has put up some of his worst numbers ever this year and may not be long for the NBA if what I saw on 4/15/21 is all he has to offer.
On Saturday 4/17, Golden State led Boston 66-50 late in the 2Q and seemed in position for a 4-0 week. Then, out of the blue, the Celtics executed a 21-2 run that Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Dennis Johnson couldn't have done better themselves. During the run, Celtics G Kemba Walker couldn't miss from deep, F Jayson Tatum shined on his way to 44 points, and the Warriors fueled it all with preventable turnovers.
Boston emerged victorious (their sixth straight W), but after the game, all focus and concern was on Toscano-Anderson. At around the 5:42 mark in the 4Q, JTA fearlessly went up over the scorer's table to save a loose ball (which he did, leading to a Curry three-pointer) and ended up dazed and bloodied on the TD Garden floor. The 28-year-old needed 35 stitches to close the gash in his head and wound up in the league's concussion protocol.
Curry put in 11 threes en route to 47 points against Boston, while Wiggins chipped in 22 and F Kent Bazemore added 16 (but with five turnovers).
OBSERVATION: Curry ran his streak of consecutive games with 30+ points to 10, but perhaps equally as important: he finally seems to be over his habit of whipping long, lefty passes across the court, passes that all too often wind up stolen. I didn't see a single one this week and I'm not sure I saw one last week, either.
Playing undersized all week, it's no shock the Warriors were outrebounded in three of four games. They did somehow beat Cleveland on the boards 47-39, as the Cavaliers are one of few teams statistically worse on the glass than Golden State.
Warriors announcer Bob Fitzgerald refers to it as the "tic-tac-toe" play—one Warrior drives toward the basket, he then feeds a cutter, and when the defense collapses on the cutter, a third man is left open, and he converts the basket. If done properly, the ball doesn't touch the floor after the first pass is made.
The Dubs ran this play to perfection several times during the week, including early in the 2Q at OKC (Poole to JTA to center Kevon Looney for the dunk), and twice at Cleveland (both Curry to JTA to Lee, the latter started by a behind-the-back Curry pass).
There were a couple of occasions last week that Golden State overpassed and had to reset the offense—this IS a Steve Kerr-coached team, after all. But the "Tic-Tac-Toes" were run to perfection.
Wiggins continued to be Wiggins—never dazzling, but highly consistent with one cosmic mistake. He dropped between 16 and 23 points every night last week. He shot around 50% every night last week. He hit tough shots and played tough defense every night last week. And in the 4Q at Cleveland, he threw a ball away in the corner, rushed upcourt, and foolishly fouled Cavs G Collin Sexton on a three-point attempt.
Warriors F Juan Toscano-Anderson is sure to "drown" G Stephen Curry in admiration for breaking Wilt Chamberlain's franchise scoring record. Damon Bruce didn't much care for JTA's act, but it didn't bother me.
This is what Wiggins offers, and overall it's a pretty solid package. Should he have been drafted #1 overall in 2014? No. But he's definitely an asset to the Dubs and still the only one to play in every game this season.
Poole continued to be an enigma of sorts. He executed a number of impressive fakes and redirections to the basket last week—ones he didn't have as a rookie last year—but his shot is still not reliable on a night-to-night basis.
Which Poole is real, the one who averaged 20.2 PPG on 46% shooting (40% from deep) from 3/17 to 3/26, or the one who shot 36% (23% from deep) last week and couldn't even drive around/past the massive Cavs C Isaiah Hartenstein?
Although Golden State had more than enough lefty shooters already, I like the addition of Gary Payton II so far. Against the Thunder, Payton got nine minutes of garbage time and registered four steals in addition to 10 points. It wasn't enough to solidify a rotation spot, but Payton did log seven more minutes in the 3Q against Boston and was the only Warrior—out of nine—with a + for the quarter (+6).
In my notebook, in large capital letters, I ordered Green to stop attempting those backdoor bounce passes—they never work. He probably won't listen.
STANDOUT SWAT: F/C Alen Smailagic convincingly stuffed Thunder F Isaiah Roby inside with just under 5:00 to go in the 4Q. This came shortly after the diminutive Payton lured 7'2" C Moses Brown into an attempt from the baseline which was promptly stuffed.
Earlier in the same game, Green went up high to reject a dunk attempt from Thunder F Svi Mykhailiuk.
TOP STOPS: Reserve rookie G Nico Mannion did well to force OKC's Kenrich Williams, owner of a four-inch size advantage, into a tough missed J from the left elbow early in the 4Q.
Midway through the 4Q against Denver, Wiggins forced Murray—who had just scored and was trying to heat up—into a very tough, long two-point brick as the shot clock expired. Murray didn't score again until sinking two FT's over five minutes later.
Also, early in the 2Q against Denver, Toscano-Anderson smartly anticipated G P.J. Dozier's Eurostep and wound up taking a charge.
C'MON, REF: Usually, I have at least one good candidate for this item per game, but last week the officials weren't much of a factor. However, midway through the 2Q against Denver, Barton converted a three-point play off a pretty weak "foul" called on Mannion that I promise Barton didn't even feel. And the officials generally allowed Cavs G Matthew Dellavadova to all but climb inside Curry's uniform, but that wasn't really a shocker.
NUMBERS: Curry made at least 10 threes in all but one game last week (Cleveland). He broke Chamberlain's franchise scoring mark with his 17,784th point, but still ranks just 79th in NBA history. (How the hell does Dwight Howard still have more points than Curry?)
Against the Nuggets and Thunder, Lee shot a combined 5-for-10...all threes.
Toscano-Anderson's previous career-high in scoring? 16, set against the Pelicans 2/23/20 and tied against the Celtics 2/2/21.
Cleveland led Golden State 15-6 at the 7:52 mark of the 1Q. The Warriors then outscored them 113-86 the rest of the way.
More troubling than the 70 points Tatum and Walker of Boston combined for? The 11 points in 16 minutes from F Jabari Parker, who'd just been signed by the Celtics off the street. And during Boston's momentous 21-2 run, the Warriors shot 1-for-5 with three turnovers (including two offensive fouls by Bazemore, who was also issued a technical foul).
BEST DUB SUB: Without a doubt, Toscano-Anderson, who—aside from committing two WAY-too-overaggressive backcourt fouls in the 3Q at Oklahoma City—did everything the Warriors could have hoped for last week. In addition to his big game against Cleveland, the fiery and animated JTA contributed five rebounds, three assists and defense against Denver, six points in 19 minutes against OKC, and the aforementioned sacrifice of his own body against the Celtics.
GRINWORTHY: Mannion wound up on Shaqtin' A Fool when he turned an open transition layup into a fumble out-of-bounds in the 2Q against Denver. And Payton sent my friends into hysterics with his 47-foot dunk brick late at Cleveland.
I also enjoyed watching Dellavadova go to the floor trying to keep up with Curry, who promptly buried a wing three late in the 3Q at Cleveland.
THE FLURRY: Curry scored 16 of Golden State's 23 3Q points at Boston. At Cleveland, Toscano-Anderson scored 10 of the Warriors' first 12 points of the 4Q, including eight points in a three-minute span.
Oh, and during Golden State's 50-point 3Q against Oklahoma City, they went on 16-4 and 14-6 runs, but surprisingly never ran off more than eight straight points.
IN THE ZONE (DEN): Just inside of the 4Q 10:00 mark, Poole rose up for a power slam which was stuffed by Denver C JaVale McGee. Somehow, the ball still found its way through the hoop...Green, averaging six PPG, nailed an elbow J and a corner three within the first 2:05 of the game. He was aggressive on offense, sinking floaters, going to the hoop and generally making Denver pay for not treating him as a threat...Golden State moved the ball very well on this night, even though some of their best possessions resulted in misses or one pass too many...Bazemore, who started all week in place of Oubre, posted a solid line. But at one point in the 3Q he botched consecutive fast breaks (turnover, missed layup) while the game was still close, triggering a reaction from me.
IN THE ZONE (OKC): Poole was called for carrying in the previous game, but his early 2Q carry went uncalled...Dubs G Mychal Mulder threw down a high-rise spike at the 5:25 mark of the 2Q; I'm still very impressed with his hops...the Thunder endured a four-plus minute scoring drought in the 2Q...Curry's best three of the night may have come late in the 2Q, when he dribbled for about an hour before burying a corner three over Thunder G Theo Maledon...Smailagic's 4Q reverse dunk attempt was stuffed by Brown; he'd do well to never watch the replay himself.
New Warriors G Gary Payton II can ball a little bit. And he can certainly defend.
IN THE ZONE (CLE): Cavs F Larry Nance Jr. was not happy when Dellavadova fed him in the corner with about half-a-second left on the shot clock; Nance predictably airballed and was openly displeased...with about 9:00 to go in the 2Q, Poole was hit as he sank a three, but upon review the foul was waved off since Poole kicked out. I'm not sure why the basket was allowed to count if Poole was committing an offensive foul...late in the 2Q, the rivers parted for Curry in the lane, and 10 years ago he might have tried to dunk. But here in 2021, he settled for the layup...ever seen the comical YouTube clip of an indecisive Sexton guarding two guys at the arc? We were treated to something of a repeat around the 7:00 mark of the 3Q, but it wasn't nearly as funny.
IN THE ZONE (BOS): Twice in the second half, Warriors dribbled off their own body for turnovers...Boston committed just nine turnovers to the Warriors' 17...Wiggins played 41 minutes without a single assist...Golden State scored 66 in the first half, but just 48 in the second half.