In the lead-up to tonight’s game against the Brooklyn Nets, plenty of ink has been spilled on how much the Warriors have changed since Kevin Durant’s departure in 2019. But, as Steve Kerr points out, his team has evolved since the first matchup between these teams to open the season.
“We’re a completely different team,” Kerr said before Durant’s first game in the Bay Area since signing with Brooklyn nearly two years ago. “We weren’t ready on opening night to compete at a high level.”
The biggest difference between the team that lost by 26 points to open the season in Brooklyn and the one that takes a two-game winning streak into Saturday night’s nationally televised game is that Draymond Green is part of the lineup. Green, who missed the first four games of the season with a foot injury, is arguably playing his best basketball since the 2019 Finals.
Entering Saturday night, the 30-year-old has recorded double-digit assists in each of the last five games while starting at center for the injured Kevon Looney (left ankle sprain) and James Wiseman (left wrist sprain).
Meanwhile, Stephen Curry is playing at an MVP level. After scoring just 20 points on 7-for-21 shooting in their opening-night loss to the Nets, Curry is averaging 37.8 points per game on 56.8% shooting in the month of February. This, after Curry missed the better part of last season with a hand injury.
“I think the break was good for Steph,” Kerr said. “I think all of our guys, following that five-year run, all the guys who were part of that run were exhausted.”
The Warriors have also established a defense with the sixth-best defensive rating in the league, while getting key contributions from forwards Kelly Oubre Jr. and Andrew Wiggins.
On the other side, the Nets arrive in San Francisco a team transformed, having acquired James Harden in a blockbuster trade with the Houston Rockets last month. Harden gives the Nets another elite 1-on-1 scorer, but the team has struggled defensively. Without Jarrett Allen (traded to the Cavaliers) and DeAndre Jordan (out for personal reasons), Brooklyn ranks 25th in defensive rating.
Both teams, with their traditional 7-footers sidelined, will play small most of Saturday. But injuries and growing pains haven’t stopped the Warriors from establishing an identity, winning their last two games and trying to earn their first three-game win streak of the season.
“Now,” Kerr said, “I think we’re in a place where we know who we are.”
Contributed by local news sources