Nets smash Dubs! At least there's 70+ more games to experiment, amirite?
As KD and Kyrie bludgeoned GSW's defense, the Warriors offense failed to respond. Wiseman's gonna be a monster though. Let's dig in!
Surely by now you’ve heard about the Brooklyn Nets blasting the Golden State Warriors 125-99 to begin the new NBA season. I figured the Nets were gonna score some points, I just didn’t expect the Warriors to be so stymied by the Brooklyn defense.
I’ve got thoughts on last night’s beatdown: let’s start with the big one.
The offense was painful to watch
The Dubs shot 37% from the field and 65% from the free throw line in a game that was basically over at halftime. Stephen Curry’s 20 points and 10 assists in 30 minutes weren’t nearly enough to buoy the squad. He spent the early parts of the game patiently deferring to some ice-cold teammates as the Nets raced out to a monster lead. Curry’s deference was partly because he’s an unselfish point guard running Coach Steve Kerr’s equal opportunity offense… (check out his nice off-ball screen before Kelly Oubre Jr.’s putback jam).
But his deference was also kinda forced because the Nets had no fear of Golden State’s other shooters and were gleefully abandoning them to swarm the two-time MVP. Curry repeatedly made intelligent passes to open teammates who just couldn’t buy a shot. Here’s the non-Curry Warriors’ shot chart for the first half, per NBA.com:
I wish they had a way to track how many of those red X’s were preceded by amazing ball movement, because the Warriors had some beautiful passing sequences that ended in duds. Sigh.
Curry did begin pressing the issue as the team faltered, but the Nets were prepared. He was harassed into a rough 7-of-21 shooting night (2-of-10 from beyond the arc) by Brooklyn’s aggressive sea of defenders. Check how many players are in the paint on this turnover of his:
The victors were disciplined in providing help whenever Unanimous started getting revved up, and he couldn’t overcome them with a scoring barrage.
So…on one hand, we shouldn’t be too surprised at the lack of offensive rapport for GSW as this unit has barely had much time together due to the pandemic and were robbed by injuries of what little roster continuity they had.
On the other hand: the ugly, disjointed basketball we watched was for sure punctuated by lingering images of Curry running laps around the court as his teammates dented the rim with bricks.
Some may wonder, why isn’t Kerr putting the ball in Curry’s hands more and letting him go berserk?
Maybe a trip down memory lane can provide some perspective. When Coach Kerr first took over the team, he and his staff transformed a fringe contender into a juggernaut with the implementation of a pass-heavy motion offense which emphasized player and ball movement.
During the height of the Golden Dynasty, he told ESPN he got this equal opportunity ethos from playing under coaches like Gregg Popovich:
"It wasn't just play your best five guys to death," Kerr says. "It was play everybody. You go deep into your rotation, even if it means losing a couple of games in the regular season, just empower everybody. It's kind of the beauty of basketball, the old cliché about the total being greater than the sum of its parts -- I believe in all of that. Five guys have to operate together, but the other seven on the bench, or nine, however many, they've got to feel part of it."
Last night was one of those lost regular season contests, as the Warriors miserably failed their first pop quiz on “Looking Respectable on Offense”. They’ll have plenty of time this season to tweak the balance between Curry going on Iversonian rampages and the development of the team’s brave new cast members.
Also let’s be for real: they were missing Klay Thompson (a defense-murdering super soldier) and Draymond Green (the guy who led the team in assists during the dynasty). Let’s remember this team was built around Curry AND the elite offensive gifts those two other ballers have. There will be an adjustment period in their absences; that’s just the reality unfortunately.
Thankfully, Green should be back soon to help this team figure out how to generate easier buckets with his A+ passing/screening IQ.
Weighing Wiseman with Wiggins
Andrew Wiggins’ stats: 31 MIN, 13pts, 2reb, 1ast, 1 blk, 4 turnovers, 4 fouls. 4-of-16 shooting from the field, 2-of-6 from 3PT range.
James Wiseman’s stats: 24 MIN, 19 pts, 6 reb, 2 stl, 1 turnover, 1 foul. 7-of-13 shooting from the field, 1-of-1 from 3PT range.
If you didn’t see the names and just saw the boxscores, which line would you guess is from a rookie playing in his first game? And which one would you guess is a max contract veteran whose talents are sorely needed to help salvage a desperate season?
Let the record show that I’ve bought plenty of shares on Wiggins Island and I don’t plan on selling soon. I expect great things from this relative newcomer to the Bay, and I fully expect him to put in work on Christmas and atone for this rough outing.
However, for at least last night, he looked exactly like all the naysayers predicted. He was indecisive and couldn’t find spacing or timing. He also didn’t appear to put up much defensive resistance, which made his rough night on offense even more glaring.
At times he appeared to be the basketball incarnation of a parallel parking job gone awry on a busy San Francisco street during rush hour. His pride drove him to keep trying to make it happen, but as the game progressed, many of his critics wanted him to just give it up and move on. He was a trending topic on Twitter, I had to take a screenshot:
Bonta Hill @BontaHillPositives: Steph is Steph and Wiseman not bad considering it's his first action since college. Negatives: Oubre Jr/Wiggins a combined 4/20. Oubre Jr at least is active defensively. Wiggins is lost. #Warriors
Thankfully, the Warriors got an entertaining and encouraging performance from their draft pick Wiseman. While not perfect (his defensive positioning occasionally left something to be desired), there was a lot to like. This guy appeared visibly bigger than former All-NBA giant DeAndre Jordan, with an eagerness to both contest shots and attempt deep jumpers of his own. Check out the rookie’s first pro shot chart:
Ummm are we looking at prime Kevin Garnett’s shot selection/efficiency? Wiseman is a legit skyscraper, lofting long range jumpers with pure confidence. I blame Dirk/KG/KD for reinventing what 7-footers are capable of doing on the court, because if this dude turns into a consistent floor spacing weapon?
THE WARRIORS WILL HAVE RUINED THE LEAGUE.
KD and Kyrie: A PROBLEM FOR THE NBA
Game 1 of the Kyrie Irving + Kevin Durant pairing proved they can be a hellacious force. They are so relentless, especially offensively. In that first half they came out with surgical precision, alternating between drilling deep jumpers, silky midrangers, and smooth finishes in the paint.
This was the type of game having a former defensive player of the year in Green would be nice. It would’ve been even better to also have a defensive pitbull like Thompson out there shadowing Irving like he has in so many primetime games.
But at least Thompson can take some encouragement from watching his friend and former teammate Durant bouncing back so emphatically from his own nasty Achilles injury.
These Warriors are gonna have to learn team defense ASAP. The reigning MVP will be seeing them right around the corner.