With season opener looming, Warriors still have work to do
SAN FRANCISCO - Four out of five preseason games, the Warriors played a team built to exploit their weaknesses.
It took the third of four tries for these preseason Warriors to best the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers team they beat was just without LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Danny Green and Rajon Rondo.
Without the top-end tandem designed to down them, the Warriors sprinted out a 124-103 win on Friday at Chase Center to finish the preseason 2-3. Here are some takeaways:
Team's identity and defense still lacking
At camp's onset, Steve Kerr sat his team down with a special film session to share. He had five specific clips, all of football safeties getting beat up top.
“He was like, ‘You guys are laughing, but we should feel this way on the court,'” Glenn Robinson III said after the game. “‘We should never get beat like this.'”
This camp's finale didn't quite indicate the Warriors would never get beat.
Sure, Stephen Curry is clearly in Stephen Curry form. He collected 32 points on 9-of-20 shooting with six 3-pointers and six assists. But it seems the Warriors are still trying to find their identity, their footing on defense. Perhaps we won't know who this team really is until they can escape LA Groundhog Day.
The Warriors at least lathered up some chemistry against the Lakers' second and third stringers on Friday. Most of that chemistry sizzled around D'Angelo Russell, who got off to a slow start but found his rhythm toward the end of the second quarter.
In non-Stephen Curry or Klay-Thompson-On-Big-Board moments, Russell making back-to-back steals and buckets in transition - a transition layup and a pull-up 3-pointer - was one of few sequences to truly bump the Chase Center crowd's decibel levels. He finished the night with 29 points with six made 3-pointers - the same number Curry drained, though it took Russell only 11 attempts to Curry's 15.
But there were still lapses in communication between Draymond Green, Russell and the rest. It's clear this team, though still relatively top-heavy with familiar parts, is still trying to feel things out.
“I think we got a lot of work to do, to be honest. We're still figuring each other out,” Russell said. “Preseason, you make it what it is. A lot of teams are set, and know what they're going to do. For us, we need that time to build on the good things and work on things we didn't do so well.”
The Warriors are still mostly shoddy on defense - save for a few big stops here and there, with one strong stretch in the first half. But lapses in judgment came back to bite in the second half.
Robinson III: Warriors' starting small forward
The Warriors boasted one of the best small forwards of all time a year ago. Kevin Durant's departure created a hard-capped vacuum at the spot. The rise of Marquese Chriss necessitated Alfonzo McKinnie's ouster and eliminated another forward from the Warriors' ranks.
With Alec Burks still out with a right ankle sprain, Kerr announced that Robinson will start at small forward on opening night.
He did Friday, too, and played 24 solid minutes, draining three corner 3-pointers on six attempts. He flowed well within the Warriors' pace.
“I thought he was good. Glenn is rock solid,” Kerr said. “He knows his role and he understands it and he's a good three-point shooter, but he's got more to his game than I realized.”
Rookie Paschall's maturity
The Warriors dearth of small forwards could force a constant positional shuffle at the 3, especially as some of the game's most elite wings - Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James - are lined up on the schedule. Draymond Green, Kerr noted, could move up to the 3 in certain matchups.
And so can rookie Eric Paschall, who demonstrated defensive poise against James this preseason.
“I think you saw some good things from Eric Paschall the other night guarding LeBron,” Kerr said before the game. “He handled the quick and strength really well. LeBron made some tough shots on him, but (I) wouldn't hesitate to throw Eric on any of those superstar wings.”