In their highly anticipated season opener on Tuesday night, the new-look super-Warriors — you know, that team that won 73 games and then added Kevin Durant — laid an egg at home, falling 129-100 to the San Antonio Spurs in a game that was never particularly close.
Who on earth saw that coming?
Steve Kerr certainly didn’t.
“No, I didn’t see losing by 29 points,” Kerr said. “It’s going to be an ugly tape to watch. … I think our guys were embarrassed tonight. I know I was.”
“It’s a slap in the face,” Durant said afterwards. “It woke us up a bit, and we’re looking forward to getting better.”
“It’s a nice little slap in the face,” Stephen Curry echoed.
Durant and Curry, for their parts, were great. Durant led his new team with 27 points on 10-of-17 shooting, while an unusually aggressive-to-the-basket Curry added 26 with three three-pointers.
The rest of the Dubs, however, were less than stellar. Draymond Green’s stat-line (18 points, 12 rebounds, six assists and five steals) does not reflect that he struggled to contain LaMarcus Aldridge (26 points), that he was chewed out by Steve Kerr in the first quarter for not hustling back on defence, or that he received a technical foul for taunting following a breakaway dunk during the 3rd quarter.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr yells at Draymond Green for failing to get back on defence pic.twitter.com/MsA4WKSXV6
— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) October 26, 2016
Klay Thompson (11 points on 5-of-13 shooting) was nowhere to be found.
Most glaring — and again, this is just one game — is the bench, which was outscored by the Warriors 54-16. The mega-death lineup of Curry, Thompson, Durant, Green, and Andre Iguodala will be an unfairly difficult match-up for any team this season, but the drop-off in talent beyond that could be a problem.
Zaza Pachulia (who is technically a starter) did next to nothing in 20 minutes; Shaun Livingston, Ian Clark, and David West failed to affect the game, too. A competent second-unit is key, and the Warriors did not have that. This is something to keep an eye on going forward.
Also, let’s not forget that the Spurs are still the Spurs. Even without Tim Duncan, Gregg Popovich is a still a mastermind. Their unrelenting defence — led by defensive player of the year Kawhi Leonard, no less — worked to perfection. With both Aldridge and Pau Gasol, their frontcourt dominated the Warriors, particularly on the boards (55-35, and 21-8 in offensive rebounds). This is a team that won 67 games last year for a reason.
The NBA season is long and nobody — save for several Fox Sports performance artists — is pressing the panic button on the Warriors after just one game. But after so much hype and such a scary-good preseason, the Warriors showed on Tuesday night that no matter how much talent a team has, adding new pieces always takes time. They are the heavy favourites to win the NBA Finals, and they are also very much still a work in progress. Both of those things can be true.
“We can’t panic,” Durant said. “Obviously, it’s Game 1 of 82, but we definitely have to get better.”
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