BY MASON BISSADA
The Golden State Warriors were eviscerated by the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday night, losing to their in-state rival by a whopping 141-122 on opening night at the new Chase Center in San Francisco.
To say that the Warriors got off to a slow start would be an understatement, seeing as how the Clippers went on a 14-0 run to start the game. D’Angelo Russell took it upon himself to stop the bleeding, scoring the Warriors’ first 10 points, including a pair of pull-up 3’s in transition. Russell looked passable offensively in his Warriors’ debut, going for 20 points on 4-8 3-point shooting. Thanks to Russell’s hot start and some competent bench play from Jacob Evans (4-9 from 3 for the game) and rookie Eric Paschall, Golden State was able to cut the lead to a reasonable 11 points at halftime. Then all hell broke loose.
During the Kerr era, the Warriors have become notorious for going on huge 3rd quarter runs to either come back from a deficit or extend an already sizable lead. Thursday, however, the opposite happened, as the Clippers outscored the Warriors 46-33, effectively ending the game. The Warriors’ defense was abominable, as they were unable to slow down Kawhi Leonard (21 points) or the super-sub combo of Lou Williams (22) and Montrezl Harrell (18). The Clippers shot an eye-popping 62.5% from the field and 56.3% from three for the game.
“Our defense was atrocious,” Draymond Green said postgame. You got to give [the Clippers] some credit but when you give them the type of rhythm they were allowed to get in, they’re going to make shots and a lot of them were open.They have a good team but our defense was pathetic.”
Steph Curry struggled mightily, turning the ball over eight times. It was also a rare off-night in terms of shooting for the usual 3-point sniper, going just 2-11 from beyond the arc. The Clippers clearly designed their defense around stopping Curry, constantly sending two players to the ball when he had possession and trapping him in pick-and-roll situations. Defensive pest Patrick Beverley hounded Curry, constantly toeing the line between fantastic defense and physical assault. Beverley even bated Curry into an offensive foul via a shove out of frustration.
“The easy answer is that it is one out of 82, but there is some glaring and there are things that we need to correct if we want to win basketball games consistently,” Curry said postgame.
The Warriors’ defensive scheme appeared to include placing Draymond Green on Clippers forward Patrick Patterson, who has not shot the ball well in recent seasons past. Green played off of Patterson in an attempt to play free safety as a help defender, daring Patterson to shoot. Patterson did indeed, knocking down 6-10 3-point attempts and ending the night with 20 points, a higher total than he had in any game last season. This is something the Warriors will just have to live with, as the logic behind the scheme was sound.
The Warriors bad injury luck also continued, as starting center Kevon Looney sat the second half after re-aggravating a hamstring injury. If this causes Looney to miss games, the Warriors will have to look to newly-acquired Marquese Chriss to start at center with Willie Cauley-Stein already out. Green also sat out for a short period in the first quarter with some sort of nerve issue in his shoulder, but was able to return in the second quarter. Green’s health is definitely something to keep an eye on as the season progresses, as the Warriors would likely fall off a defensive cliff without him.
Perhaps it is a good thing that the Warriors took such an emphatic loss this early in the season. It was a reality check they needed, conveying to them that they are no longer a juggernaut that can walk into any game and win with one hand tied behind their backs. This Clipper team might be the toughest opponent they’ll face this season, so at least they know it’s all uphill from here.
“This is not a one-off,” Head Coach Steve Kerr said postgame “This is the reality. There are going to be nights like this during the year. You have to play through it and you have to keep fighting and keep getting better. That’s the plan.”
The Warriors next travel to Oklahoma City to play the Thunder on Sunday at 12:30 p.m.