BY MASON BISSADA
The Los Angeles Lakers spoiled the Golden State Warriors’ first ever preseason game at the new Chase Arena, dominating them from the jump by a final score of 123-101 Saturday evening.
Essentially, two 24-minute games were played: the first by each team’s A-squad and the second by their B-squad, the latter being made up of second units, young prospects, two-way players and a few end-of-the-bench veterans. The A-team game ended with the Lakers leading 59-51, at which point many season ticket-holders fled for the exits to avoid watching players whose names they don’t know.
The Warriors’ poor luck with injuries may as well have sealed their fate before tipoff, as big men Willie Cauley-Stein and Kevon Looney were both sidelined and Golden State’s lack of frontcourt size was blatantly obvious and detrimental as a result. In their stead at the starting center spot was second-year forward Omari Spellman, whom the Warriors acquired in the offseason from the Atlanta Hawks. When Spellman sat, his role was filled by rookie Eric Paschall and non-guaranteed contract player Marquese Chriss.
“We need [Cauley-Stein and Looney’s] length and athleticism and that ability to play the center spot,” Head Coach Steve Kerr said postgame. “Hopefully their absences won’t last too long.”
Los Angeles dominated the paint, out-rebounding Golden State 18-11 in the first quarter and 34-26 in the first half. Anthony Davis, the Lakers offseason superstar acquisition, looked like his usual goliath-like self, feasting on the boards with five offensive rebounds on his way to a 22-point, 10-rebound night in just 18 minutes of action. The Lakers were also able to establish deep-post position and benefited from the size of both their bigs and ball-handlers.
The Warriors new all-star starting backcourt of Steph Curry and D’Angelo Russell struggled from deep, going a combined 1-9 in the first half (neither played in the second half). Part of these struggles can be attributed to simply missing shots, but it did feel at times as if the Warriors’ offense was more cramped than last year due to a lack of shooting, and the two guards were forced to throw up tough contested jumpers as a result. Russell looked particularly uncomfortable, clearly still adjusting to the Warriors’ motion offense (though he did run pick-and-roll at times). The 23-year-old also struggled on defense, losing sharpshooter Danny Green on screens and giving up wide-open 3-point attempts.
“It’s all brand-new,” Russell said after the game when asked about the fit of the backcourt. “I think with more time, the more games we play, the more the chemistry will build.”
“I think for the most part it’s getting him used to when we don’t call plays,” Steph Curry said postgame of Russell when asked about their still-in-progress chemistry. “Our second nature, our reads, spacing, just overall expectations. But I told him there’s nothing he needs to change about the way he plays.”
The second half featured many of the Warriors young prospects, including #28 overall pick Jordan Poole. Poole looked aggressive in both halves, racking up 17 points on 5-11 from the field and 4-9 from 3. Poole provided some much needed spacing and shot-making that the Warriors will need if tonight is indicative of their offense for the season, at least until Klay Thompson returns from injury.
“I felt pretty comfortable,” Poole said after the game. “Everybody was asking if I would get nervous…I feel like I’m confident in scoring.”
It’s just one game, and an exhibition game at that, but the lack of depth that many speculated would be one of the Warriors’ Achilles heels clearly manifested itself tonight. Time will tell if their luck with health improves and their young prospects develop into contributors.
The Warriors will continue their exhibition season on Thursday when they take on Karl-Anthony Towns and the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Chase Center.