BY MASON BISSADA
In what may have been their most painful loss of the season, the Golden State Warriors gave a truly winnable game away to the Thunder, losing in frustrating fashion to Oklahoma City 100-97 Monday night.
The Warriors seemed to have their fourth win of the season locked up and sealed away with nine minutes to go in the fourth quarter, leading by a comfortable 14 points. Golden State had been defending the Thunder well and executing their offense as best they could given their injury-depleted eight-man rotation. The Chase Center crowd was loving the energy of their scrappy young team and fans were itching to finally celebrate their second home win of the season. Then, in what felt like the blink of an eye, Oklahoma City went on a ridiculous 22-5 run (riddled with Warriors’ turnovers and poor offensive execution) to finish the game and pull out an improbable victory.
Down the stretch, Chris Paul (20 points, 7-15 shooting, seven rebounds, five assists) notched a tough mid-range jumper with just 36 seconds left to give the Thunder the lead. After failing to score on the following possession, the Warriors sent sophomore standout Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (12 points, five rebounds) to the line, where he buried both free throws. Then, in a possession that encapsulated the Warriors ugly offensive execution in the fourth quarter, two-way rookie Ky Bowman dribbled the air out of the ball before failing to get a shot off and forcing Steve Kerr to call a timeout. Jordan Poole then had his shot blocked after an inbounds pass with just two seconds to go, and the game was over. The Warriors were shellshocked. Their youth and inexperience came to the forefront down the stretch and they lost the edge that gave them the lead in the first place.
“We couldn’t handle their defensive pressure,” Head Coach Steve Kerr said postgame. “They turned it up and forced some turnovers and we didn’t get good looks. It was frustrating because we had the game right in our grasp and just couldn’t finish it off. More than anything I just feel sick for our guys because they continue to compete, work and they deserve better, but on the other hand, we weren’t good enough to close the game out, so we didn’t deserve to win.”
The first 39 minutes of this game could be viewed as one of the best games the Warriors have played all season. Defensively, Golden State was forcing tough looks for OKC, and offensively the ball was moving fluidly. Despite his late-game mishaps, Bowman had himself a career night, going for a career-high 24 points on 9-17 shooting to go along with five assists and three steals. Bowman looked decisive, controlling the pace of the game and showing off a ton of craft and footwork on his drives to the rim. He also only had one turnover on the night, which is a great sign for any floor general playing 39 minutes.
Glenn Robinson III also reached a new career-high, scoring 25 points on 9-14 shooting including 3-4 from beyond the arc (he had 13 points in the first quarter alone). Robinson has shown a ton of offensive growth this season, doing more with the ball in his hands out of necessity. His willingness to shoot the ball has been a positive sign in terms of him being a quality role player when his more talented teammates return from injuries.
“It’s frustrating,” Robinson III said postgame of the heartbreaking loss. “Being a young team is not an excuse for the last four minutes of basketball that we played. We have to find some way to pull out that win especially with the record, the way the season is going for us, you know up ten down the stretch we have to find some way to bring that home.”
Rookie Eric Paschall continues to impress, notching another double-double as he went for a solid 13 points and 10 rebounds. Paschall did have five turnovers, which can happen when a rookie has the ball in his hands as much as he does. OKC forward Danilo Galinari frustrated Paschall, drawing multiple charges on him down the stretch of the game.
“It’s part of the deal for Eric,” Kerr said postgame of this frustration. “He’s had a lot of success obviously here in his rookie year, so teams are playing attention to him and now he has to see different types of defenses. Danilo Gallinari is a tough guy to face because of his ability to flop and draw fouls, flail around and do all the stuff that he does and still fooling the refs after all these years. Eric has to figure that out.”
Off the bench, rookie Jordan Poole is still struggling to find his place in the NBA. Poole’s jumpshot simply isn’t falling, and when he did briefly catch fire by hitting two three’s in a short span, he got trigger happy and forced a couple long misses. One possession later, he turned the ball over via travel. Poole’s feel for the game still seems to be absent, and his play has not been rotation-quality for the season so far (27% from the field, 23% from deep). Were it not for the ungodly amount of injuries the Warriors have faced this season, it’s safe to say Poole would be riding the bench.
For the Thunder, Dennis Schroder was sensational off the bench, scoring 22 points on 9-17 shooting and playing a key role in their fourth quarter comeback. Schroder, who is shooting just 26% from three on the season, was 4-9 from beyond the arc. The Warriors took the “we’ll live with it” approach when Schroder was lining it up from deep, and he made them pay for sagging off of him. His speed and playmaking were tough for the Warriors to deal with, especially when OKC ran out three-guard lineups with him, Paul and Gilgeous-Alexander.
Golden State will probably lose more sleep over this loss than they did the various blowouts they’ve gone through this season, simply because they were so close to pulling out a win. The game slipped through their fingers, bringing them down to a depressing 3-15 record, and it seemed as though they didn’t even realize it was happening until it was too late. Still, one would hope the positive signs from the game carry over to future matchups.
The Warriors will welcome the Chicago Bulls to Chase Center on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. As a special treat (and a smart way to convince fans to watch games during a lost season) injured All-Star Klay Thompson will act as sideline reporter for NBC Sports Bay Area. Thompson is, shall we say, a character, and should bring a lot of fun moments to the broadcast while interviewing teammates. Perhaps we’ll even get a Steph cameo.
Marquese Chriss stayed with Chris Paul on a switch and swatted his shot into the stands. Is Chriss showing signs of elite defense, or is Paul simply getting old ? Two years ago, Paul would’ve blown by any big like he was dust in the wind.
Omari Spellman’s jumpshot looks so pure, and he looks more and more mobile with every game he plays. He’s clearly playing himself into shape, and the results are showing.
Eric Paschall’s perimeter defense has been looking solid. Many were skeptical he could potentially play small forward alongside Draymond Green due to his lack of mobility, but he’s proving them wrong.
For a large portion of the game, the Warriors were extremely active in passing lanes, forcing turnovers and reading OKC’s offense well.
The win was OKC’s first on the road this season.