How Strength in Numbers saved the Warriors first victory of the season
Curry's 36 points set the stage for his teammates to seal the win.
Finally, the Golden State Warriors are back in the win column baby!
A game winning three-pointer from Damion Lee topped off the Dubs 129-128 triumph in an energetic if disjointed affair against the struggling Chicago Bulls.
The Dubs are in a major adjustment period as they figure out their new identity amid serious injury woes and a shortened offseason. Dedicated members of Dub Nation are hunkered in front of their screens searching for clues about what this team’s identity will eventually be.
There’s no shame in Golden State's losses to Eastern Conference powerhouses like Brooklyn and Milwaukee to start the year, especially without the services of All-Stars like Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. But the Bulls were a lowly team that even this weakened version of the Dubs needed to beat in order to show growth and gain winning experience.
Let’s get into a spirited Warriors effort full of growing pains, spearheaded by a scoring barrage from Stephen Curry, and capped off by a game winning dagger from his brother-in-law Lee.
Lee makes Strength in Numbers look good
Lee’s game winner encapsulated the tender balance the shorthanded Warriors are trying to strike between “relying on all-time talent Curry” and “Strength in Numbers”.
Lee was flamethrower off the bench the whole night, drilling 4-of-5 three-point attempts, but I doubt most people had him even getting the ball in this situation. His confidence there is exactly what Warriors head coach Steve Kerr is seeking to cultivate in this new team.
What you don’t see in that clip is Curry flying around before Lee’s inbound pass, heroically begging for the ball to save the game. For Lee to look off Curry and call his own number was daring; if he missed then it stokes the flames of the claim that the Warriors are squandering Curry to empower non-shooters.
But it’s a make-or-miss league and Lee stepped up to rescue the squad. THAT’S why Kerr demands the ball doesn’t stick in Curry’s hands all night. Kerr knows all about coming off the bench and hitting game winners while his star teammate is blanketed; especially in that building! That’s why three of those championship banners bear his name next to Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen.
Kerr knows role players need the early touches and consistent reps in order to be ready to contribute when the stakes are highest. Kerrball may be ugly when guys are missing shots, but it preps his players to elevate their games to supplement their superstar.
Curry activated MVP mode
Speaking of said superstar, Curry had one of those Iversonian outbursts Dub Nation has been begging for. Is a season high 36 points on 11-of-25 shooting (5-of-15 from 3PT range) with a team high 6 assists enough action for you Splash junkies?
Curry’s final statline was a work of perseverance as he spent most of the evening searching for his golden touch. He shot 2-of-7 in the third quarter and was on the wrong end of this hijinx moment.
Here’s that 3rd quarter shot chart from Unanimous:
But he battled back in the fourth period, scoring 11 points in the final five minutes punctuated by this three-point play to keep the Dubs alive. Way to get three points the old school way Steph; he doesn’t fear the contact folks!
Speaking of drawing contact for free throws…
Free throw shooting could be a strength for Dubs
The Warriors scored 129 points and yet watching in real time it felt like they couldn’t hit the ocean with a beach ball. Kelly Oubre Jr. shot 3-of-16 from the field and an alarming number of possessions ended with him either crashing wildly into traffic or bricking wide open jumpshots. His 0-of-6 shooting from beyond the arc stalled the Warriors offense repeatedly.
The Dubs shot a ghastly 40% from the field but fortunately were buoyed by 18 made threes and a huge night from the free throw line. They went 27-of-30 from the charity stripe, getting downhill on the defense and forcing the referees to make the call.
Top GSW free throw shooters on the night:
Stephen Curry: 9-9
Eric Paschall: 6-7
Andrew Wiggins 5-6
If the Warriors fancy themselves any kind of contender this season, this is a glimmer of potential. Getting to the free throw line can be a savvy skill that pays off dividends in the postseason. When the game slows down and legs are tired, games are often decided by the players who penetrate the defense and draw fouls.
Okay back to Strength in Numbers for a sec…
For more encouraging notes from this game, here’s some quick hitter thoughts:
Wiggins had 19-9-4 with 0 turnovers and shot 2-of-3 from beyond the arc. Um, yeah that’s a pretty good game. After he knocked down a couple outside shots it opened some driving lanes, like here on the play that resulted in Kevon Looney’s huge putback in the final seconds.
Looney had a team high plus/minus of +12 and shined down the stretch defensively. The whole bench mob showed out last night, check out their box score from ESPN:
FEED JAMES WISEMAN. The giant rookie’s first shot attempt didn’t come until there were five minutes left in the second quarter when he airballed a mid-range jumper. He would make three of his next seven, including a three-pointer, and showed some tantalizing post moves. This guy is gonna be a problem as he keeps maturing with the squad.
I mentioned Oubre earlier for his awful shooting night, but don’t let that distract from how hard he competed. He led the team in rebounds (11) and tied Brad Wanamaker (!) for game high in steals (4). He also had the highest plus/minus of the starters (+9). Oubre’s energy was irreplacable.