BY MASON BISSADA
Though they refused to die until the very end, the Golden State Warriors were unable to overcome the Indiana Pacers on Friday night at the Chase Center, losing by a score of 129-118 in a game that felt much closer than the final score indicated.
Leading the futile effort was D’Angelo Russell, who tied his career-high of nine 3-pointers made, going 9-13 from beyond the arc and finishing with 37 points to go along with five assists. In the third quarter, when it appeared Indiana was about to pull away and blow the Warriors out like the Jazz did two nights ago, Russell hit four three pointers to cut the lead to four and give the Warriors a fighting chance. Though his performance was in vain, the home crowd truly appreciated Russell’s brief channeling of his Splash Brother teammates.
“He’s an incredible shooter from long range and lethal on the high screen and got there in the third quarter when we made that push,” Head Coach Steve Kerr said postgame. “He’s capable of that…and he did a great job of helping us get back in the game.”
Marquese Chriss added, “I’m never really surprised when he gets hot like that.”
Draymond Green (10 points, 11 assists) recognized Russell’s hot hand and continued to feed him the ball, either in transition while running the break or in the half court as a point-forward. When Green actually has players around him that are making shots, his court vision and unselfishness become much more noticeable and valuable.
Though the Warriors outscored the Pacers 67-60 in second half, they were unable to undo the damage done by the Indiana in the first. It wouldn’t be wrong to assume that a performance in which Golden State shot an efficient 48.8% from the field and 48.7% from three would’ve resulted in at least a single-digit defeat, if not a victory. However, when the opposing team shoots 56.8% from the field and an astounding 60.7% from beyond the arc, all assumptions go out the window. Indiana seemed to have an answer for every run Golden State threw at them, thanks in large part to T.J. Warren (33 points), who made nine of his first 10 shots, and Doug McDermott (24 points), who made his first eight shots and finished the night 6-7 from downtown.
The Pacers, who have been short-handed in the backcourt all season as Victor Oladipo recovers from a knee injury (he’s expected to return January 29th) were also without breakout star Malcom Brogdon after he recently suffered a concussion. However, Indiana didn’t seem to miss Brogdon much, as Domantas Sabonis assumed the role of point-center, dishing out eight assists to go along with a 16-point, 10-rebound double-double. Sabonis operated out of the post, finding cutters with backdoor passes and reading Golden State’s defense from over his shoulder. The likely first-time All-Star showed his entire offensive arsenal, whether it be his vision or his impressive footwork.
The loss came in the wake of a trade in which the Warriors sent center Willie Cauley-Stein to the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavs used their $11.7 million trade exception to take in Cauley-Stein after their starting center, Dwight Powell, went down with a season-ending injury. In exchange, according to Bobby Marks, Golden State will now save nearly $6 million in luxury tax dollars owed to the league and open up another roster spot (to potentially sign 2-way player Ky Bowman for the rest of the season). Cauley-Stein is a legitimate rotation-level center, though his play with Golden State this season has been inconsistent. With Cauley-Stein gone, look for Marquese Chriss and Omari Spellman to get his minutes, along with spot time for Draymond Green as a small-ball 5.
Chriss was given the nod as the starting center Friday in the wake of the trade, and performed as if he wanted to secure the role for the remainder of the season. Though he only had three rebounds, Chriss was a perfect 5-5 from the field in 21 minutes of action. Though he does not offer the floor spacing that Spellman (2-3 from three) does, his athleticism and hustle plays make him a solid option.
Glenn Robinson III continues to be a model of consistency on a team that is anything but. Robinson finished with 18 points and seven rebounds, making two of his five three-pointers and slowing down the scorching hot T.J. Warren in the second half.
After coming off of a brutal 35-point beatdown on Wednesday at the hands of of the Utah Jazz, the Warriors could have easily laid down and died for a Pacers team that is also far more talented than them. Some resiliency is an improvement over no resiliency, and small moral victories are welcome when actual wins are so few and far between.
Golden State now has three days off before traveling to Philadelphia to face the 76ers on Tuesday at 4PM in a game that will mark the first of a five-game east coast road trip.
Golden State played its twenty-second different starting lineup of the season tonight.
The Warriors’ 19 three-pointers made was one shy of their season-high (20 on 1/16 vs. Denver).
Indiana’s 60.7% shooting from three was a season-high against Golden State.