BY MASON BISSADA
In what may turn out to be the final Warriors home game with fans in attendance at Chase Center for the foreseeable future, Golden State lost in demoralizing fashion to the Los Angeles Clippers, 131-107.
After the Santa Clara Health Department ordered on Monday that all gatherings of one thousand people or more are effectively banned due to the Coronavirus outbreak, many are speculating that San Francisco county can’t be far behind with their own such ruling. Just as the San Jose Sharks will now play their games in an empty arena, so too may the Golden State Warriors in due time. The NBA is set to make a league-wide call on Wednesday addressing further measures, and games may be closed off to the public as soon as Thursday in certain cities.
“It’s absolutely a possibility,” Head Coach Steve Kerr said pregame when asked about potentially playing without fans in attendance. “I’ve played on a couple of teams where it felt like that was the case. We’re in uncharted waters here. We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. We’re all just taking the approach that we have to do our jobs and come in and work.”
The Warriors organization has already taken the step of not allowing the media into team locker rooms before and after games, and setting up makeshift podiums for players and coaches outside the away locker room where scrums would usually take place.
“I mean it’s not disruptive much,” Clippers Head Coach Doc Rivers said from his podium when asked about the precautions the league is enforcing. “But it’s different, this is definitely different. This is very serious and our team is taking it very serious and the NBA is taking it very serious and so there are things that we are doing different.”
Some fans seem to have already taken it upon themselves to avoid large gatherings, as a noticeable amount of seats were empty on Tuesday at Chase Center for a game that would usually draw a huge crowd.
If fans are indeed closed off to games in the future, the question remains of how this absence will affect the way teams play. “Obviously we want our fans to be there,” Eric Paschall said postgame. “We play for our fans, but I feel like as professional basketball players, we can adjust to it because we’ve played basketball our whole lives.”
In terms of the game itself, Golden State was clearly outmatched from the jump, giving up a 28-point deficit by halftime and allowing the Clippers to extend thieir lead to 34 at one point. The Clippers, who currently hold the #2 seed in the Western Conference, hit 20 of their 44 3-point attempts (good for 45.5%) and dominated Golden State in nearly every other statistical category as well. Seven Clips scored in double figures despite no player playing over 27 minutes (their starters sat for nearly all of the fourth quarter).
“We’re playing probably the deepest team in the NBA,” Kerr said postgame. “The Clippers are loaded. Big, strong, physical team and [they] took it to us right away. They were knocking down three’s left and right. If there was anything I was dissapointed in in the first half, it was our 3-point defense.”
All-Star Kawhi Leonard led the way for Los Angeles, dropping 23 points on 9-14 shooting in just 25 minutes of play. Leonard’s midrange jumpshooting was something to behold, knocking in shot after shot whether it was contested or not (more often not, as the Warriors perimeter defense was nearly nonexistent).
For Golden State, Dragan Bender led the way with 23 points on 8-12 shooting, tying his career-high as his second 10-day contract counts down. Though much of his scoring came after the game was essentially over, Bender’s ability to pass, shoot and set screens has proven useful for a depleted Warriors roster.
Andrew Wiggins contributed another 20+ point performance, scoring 21 points on 8-16 shooting and knocking down three of his eight 3-point attempts. Since joining the Warriors, Wiggins has hit 33% of his attempts from beyond the arc, a somewhat passable number given the difficulty of some of his attempts. The form of his jumpshot appears sound, and it isn’t too much to assume that he will get more wide-open looks next year playing next to Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.
The Warriors will welcome the Brooklyn Nets (and an injured Kevin Durant) to Chase Center on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. It is still undetermined if fans will be welcomed as well.
Stephen Curry missed his second straight game after being diagnosed with the flu. Kerr is optimistic that he’ll be ready for Thursday’s game against the Brooklyn Nets.
Juan Toscano-Anderson left Tuesday’s game early in the first quarter after spraining his ankle. His timetable for a return is unclear.
Ky Bowman returned after missing five games with a sprained ankle, scoring 11 points on 5-6 shooting in 24 minutes of play.
Coming into Tuesday’s game, Golden State leads the league in points per game scored by rookies with 28.9 points per game. This is the highest Warriors rookie scoring average for any Warriors team in the last 23 seasons.