Warriors get back to .500 with 116-106 win over Detroit Pistons
Behind Curry and Wiggins, the Dubs earn their second victory of the season in the Motor City.
After defeating the Chicago Bulls on Sunday night thanks to Damion Lee’s clutch three-pointer, the Warriors wrapped up this season-commencing four-game road trip with a visit to Motown and a game against the Detroit Pistons.
The Pistons came into this game winless, hoping to secure their first triumph of the 2020-21 campaign. The Warriors, after that awful start, were trying to finish up this stretch away from Chase Center by getting back to .500 before returning to the Bay Area for a seven-game homestand.
Tuesday night’s game was at times exciting and excruciating, sublime and sloppy. But by fighting off a scrappy and hungry Pistons squad - as well as a turn-back-the-clock fourth-quarter performance from Derrick Rose (scoring 11 of his 15 points in the final frame), the Warriors held on for the 116-106 victory on Tuesday night.
Wiggins and Curry lead the way
Though Stephen Curry led the Warriors in scoring (I’ll be talking about him a bit more shortly), the real star of this game (in my estimation) was Andrew Wiggins. Wiggins served as the face of the Dubs’ early-season struggles, routinely getting roasted on Twitter for his subpar play. But after playing ever-so-slightly-better against the Milwaukee Bucks and following that up with a solid game in the win over the Bulls, Wiggins played his best basketball of the season in Detroit on Tuesday night.
Wiggins scored 27 points against the Pistons, going 5 of 8 from three-point range. While Wiggins looked very uncomfortable at times in the first three games (especially in Brooklyn and Milwaukee), he looked much more in control and natural.
Even more important was when Wiggins scored, as 17 of those points came in the fourth quarter. With Wiggins leading the way while Curry was on the bench getting rest, the Warriors pushed their lead to ten points before Curry even re-entered the game.
One of the concerns heading into this season was what would happen during the minutes when Curry wasn’t on the floor. Wiggins, along with Brad Wanamaker (who scored 9 points and handed out 2 assists in nearly 18 minutes of playing time), showed Warriors fans that those stretches of Curry-less basketball are not necessarily lost causes in the win over the Pistons.
In his postgame interview, Eric Paschall talked about playing with Wiggins on that second unit while Curry got his rest.
While Wiggins’ fourth-quarter surge put the game away, and it was such a welcome sight given how poorly his season had started, Curry’s role in getting the Warriors their second victory of the season cannot be overstated. Curry scored 31 points, going 5 for 9 from three-point range.
Despite the Pistons throwing two or sometimes three bodies at him, Curry still found a way to generate offense either on his own or by setting up his teammates, as Curry finished the game with 6 assists as well.
The issue going forward is getting this kind of play consistently from Wiggins, against even tougher opponents, to go with the greatness of Curry to which we’ve all become too accustomed and thus overlook. But perhaps they won’t need this much from Wiggins every time to get a win. You’ll eventually have Draymond Green returning. Kelly Oubre can still play better, though he’s beginning to get out of his slump by making his first three-pointer of the season. James Wiseman can contribute more than he did on Tuesday night.
But whether this season is a successful one for the Warriors is going to be determined by if they can get enough from everyone else to go with what they get from Curry. When they do, no matter who it comes from on the roster, they’re tough to beat. When they don’t? That’s a very different story.
Pistons stay competitive thanks to offensive rebounds
The Warriors’ were much better defensively on Tuesday night, holding the Pistons to 38% from the field and 37.1% from three-point range. The Warriors had eight steals (with Curry and Oubre each grabbing two) and eight blocks all while holding the other Pistons in check (save for Rose’s fourth-quarter outburst and 27 points for Jerami Grant). You can see the defensive potential in players like Oubre and Wiseman, potential that will start to be further realized once you get a player like Draymond Green back out there.
Yet despite their woeful offensive performance, the Pistons were able to stay in the game until the very end. The reason? Offensive rebounding.
The Pistons grabbed 16 offensive rebounds against the Warriors, resulting in 20 second-chance points. 12 of those Pistons’ offensive rebounds came in the first half so it was clear that doing a better job on the defensive glass was something that was emphasized at halftime.
As Monte Poole correctly noted early in the game, it’s pretty easy to see why this would be a problem for the Warriors (especially against the Pistons, one of the better offensive rebounding teams in the league):
The absence of Marquese Chriss (and Green) puts the Warriors at a tremendous rebounding disadvantage. Obviously the Warriors won’t be getting Chriss back this season but Green’s eventual return will help keep the Warriors from getting so thoroughly dominated in the rebounding department.
The rookie roller-coaster
This game was indicative of the entirety of the James Wiseman experience, exactly what you would expect from a 19-year-old rookie who only played three games in college.
After turning heads with his play in losses to the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks, Wiseman looked more like an extremely young rookie in the win over the Bulls, which continued into the game against the Pistons. NBC Sports Bay Area’s Drew Schiller notes this:
Two turnovers, 3/9 shooting, some defensive mistakes, and fouling out of the game? These are the kinds of things that frustrate and yet are not unheard of with such a young player.
Yet you also saw the positive impact Wiseman can have on the court, as his individual plus/minus was the best of any player in Tuesday night’s game. Though there were defensive lapses, there were also some great contests and blocks. And then there was this sequence, which had all Warriors fans extremely excited for Wiseman’s future with the team.
After the game, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr described the rookie’s play in terms that were music to Dub Nation’s ears:
Anthony Slater @anthonyVslaterHere is the idealized long term version of James Wiseman: Length to erase the Plumlee floater, grab-and-go skill/speed combo on the move, soaring dunk https://t.co/j2ZGzuNWs5
It bodes well for Wiseman that even in these games when he’s not playing his best/struggling as part of the rookie learning curve, he can still be a contributor to his team getting a win.