SAN FRANCISCO — Klay Thompson is washed up. Jordan Poole was a one-year wonder. The defense is not the same. Young people just aren’t ready. The rotation is a disaster.
We’ve all heard some version of these stories as the Golden State Warriors inched toward a record .500 through the first six weeks of the season, seemingly reeling from a lingering hangover from last June’s championship run. And on Saturday night they were scheduled to meet a buzz, a 21-5 Boston Celtics team that led the league in wins, offensive efficiency and net rating. The meeting was the first since Golden State beat Boston in last season’s NBA Finals. A Celtics win, and they’d be hearing the “changing of the guard” narrative every day until their next matchup in Boston in mid-January.
Instead, in front of a boisterous Chase Center crowd that seemed to understand what was at stake, the Warriors demonstrated exactly why early-season concerns ultimately didn’t mean much, as they cruised to a 123-107 win in the they were never behind after the six-minute mark of the first quarter. Every Boston run was met with feverish resistance from a group of Warriors who, despite their failings, have lost just two home games so far this season.
“I thought we needed a game like that,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said after the win. “We’ve been a bit stuck in the mud, and it seems like we’ve improved in recent weeks, but not much to show for it. So this was an important win for us.”
The stunning story was Klay Thompson, who was electric from the jump. Left for dead at times this season by fans and media alike, Thompson finished with 34 points on 14-of-26 shooting, including 4-of-11 from 3-point range. His Splash Brother partner Stephen Curry was consistently impressive, exuding the precise combination of patience and bravado that has made him impossible to defend for the better part of a decade. In total, he finished with 32 points on 21 shots and it was his best game plus 20 in minutes. Ho hum. He also added a wrinkle to one of his trademark three-point shots, asking fans if he came on after the first-quarter buzzer beat.
As exciting as Curry and Thompson’s offense was, Golden State’s defense was the history of the game. The Warriors entered Saturday allowing 112.7 points per 100 possessions, good for ranking in the bottom 10 of the league and a far cry from the 106.6 they gave up last season. With his best perimeter defender, Andrew Wiggins, missing the game with an adductor injury, Kerr elected to start Poole in his place. That left either Thompson or Curry to cover for a member of Boston’s dynamic duo Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum.
Call it instinct, but Kerr chose Thompson, whose defensive capabilities have diminished from his previous All-NBA standard, to start the game protecting Tatum, perhaps the top MVP candidate at this point in the season. Thompson immediately set the tone by nailing Tatum’s first shot attempt against the glass, avoiding what would otherwise have been an easy layup. Thompson said he hasn’t had that kind of block in at least four years, so he felt “unbelievable” and that he’s going to see the movie again.
“I love competing on both sides of the ball, and Tatum and Brown are two of the best one-on-one players in the league,” Thompson said after the game. “It’s not easy when you’re tasked with chasing down those guys, but it’s what you appreciate as competitors: playing against the best of the best. It really doesn’t get any better.”
Thompson guarded Tatum and Brown at various times during the game, while Draymond Green and second-year breakout forward Jonathan Kuminga, one of the The brightest spots of the Warriors in recent times, shared the responsibility. The result was a 6-of-21 shooting night from Tatum, including 2-of-9 from beyond the 3-point line. The Warriors will be the first to admit that the All-NBA forward missed some shots he usually takes, but the energy and effort were there to get him and Boston’s other league-leading 3-point shooters off the line.
After leaving the rotation early in the season, Kuminga is becoming one of the Warriors’ most consistent defenders, earning the trust of the coaching staff. It’s a learning process, and facing two of the best scorers in the league can only hasten improvement.
“Especially if I have more confrontations with [Tatum and Brown]Knowing that they like to go left or right, doing different moves on the ground, I think it was good for me,” Kuminga said. “It’s part of growing up that when I come back and watch a movie, I know what to do better.”
The Celtics entered Saturday’s game with an offensive rating of 119.9, the best in NBA history, while holding the league’s best marks for 3-pointers per game (16.6) and 3-point accuracy (40 percent). The Warriors held them to 107 points and 12-for-40 (30 percent) shooting deep. Obviously, teams miss shots, but Kerr thought Golden State’s defensive tenacity was causing trouble for Boston.
“Our guys did a good job playing with a lot of energy and trying to challenge,” Kerr said. “We did a good job of keeping them from getting into a good rhythm. But it’s a game, and it wasn’t their best night for sure. But it was a good night for us.”
Now the task is to tie more of these two-way efforts together, a tall order given that the Warriors 14-13’s next six games will come on the road, booked with matchups against Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Milwaukee Bucks and the suddenly red-hot Brooklyn Nets. live. , led by a familiar face in Kevin Durant. Golden State will not play another home game until Christmas Day against the Memphis Grizzlies.
But that’s what happens with the Warriors. Even if they don’t win on the road trip, Saturday’s victory over the best team in the league shows what they have in the tank, and they could be waiting for opponents come the postseason.
“These games are important in the sense of mentally preparing for what playoff basketball is and figuring out how to build as big a presence as possible in those types of games,” Curry said of Saturday’s win over the Celtics. “You also have to assess the team as it is, what do we have out there? How are the matchups going? They prefigure what a playoff series will be like. So it was a good feeling tonight to win a game like that.” .”