The Warriors’ attempt at a second-straight comeback win fell short in their 124-120 loss to the Orlando Magic Friday.
After trailing by 17 points, Kelly Oubre Jr. (26 points on 10-of-18 shooting and seven rebounds) and Andrew Wiggins (16 points) helped lead a 43-point third quarter that helped the Warriors take their first lead of the game. Though Curry (29 points on 11-of-29 shooting, 11 assists and seven rebounds) was bottled up most of the night, his back-to-back 3-pointers cut the deficit to one after the Magic re-took the lead. Curry’s game-tying attempt in the final seconds missed, and the Magic sunk free throws to clinch.
With this loss — two days after a 19-point comeback win over the Heat — the Warriors failed to string together their first three-game win streak for the seventh time this season.
“We let another get away,” said Draymond Green. “It’s kind of been the storyline of the season.”
Here are three takeaways from the game.
The losing stretch: When Brad Wanamaker’s layup gave the Warriors a 13-point lead with 8:50 to go, it looked as if they were on their way to a rousing comeback victory. However, the Warriors after that gave up a 31-14 run the rest of the way. It was one the most scrambled stretches of their season.
“I’ll have to watch the tape,” said head coach Steve Kerr, “but it seemed to me like the last five minutes, it was one pass and a shot. We stopped doing what had gotten us the lead.”
Lack of ball movement crushed the momentum, and Golden State was doomed by fouls, turnovers and missed shots. Specifically, the Warriors committed three fouls (not counting intentional ones to force free throws at the end) that resulted in six points for Orlando. Wanamaker traveled and Damion Lee and Curry each threw the ball away; and Paschall, Oubre, Curry and Green all missed layups in the final eight minutes.
It could be easy to write this off as sloppy play, but credit should be given to the Magic. Steve Clifford’s group coaxed the Warriors into tough shots in the sticky mid-range area, where they went 3-of-14 overall, and Orlando’s size limited Golden State to converting on just 57.1% shooting near the rim. Clifford’s defenses have long sought to blunt drives and cut off passing lanes, and they did that well during the game’s most important stretch tonight.
Green, passing up easy opportunities: When Curry is firing off MVP-caliber numbers, Green is free to manage the game unburdened by counting stats. But defenses will always key in on Curry and, over the last two games, Miami and Orlando mostly had success, limiting Curry to 19-of-54 (35.1%) shooting. When that happens, the Warriors need Green to look for his own shot.
The thing is: He doesn’t have to look that hard. Opponents are not only double and triple-teaming Curry, but they’re also playing off Green so they can keep a defender on Wiggins, Oubre and/or Golden State’s other scoring threats. Green can try to patiently pick apart the defense like Tom Brady in the pocket — and it’s hard to argue he shouldn’t considering he’s recorded 95 assists in his last eight games — but even Brady will scramble when given space once in a while.
Here, Green passes up two wide-open shots on the same possession, deciding instead to force a pass through three Magic defenders that results in a turnover.
Later, he passes to a well-defended Curry rather than take a wide-open 3-pointer. Not that Curry taking a contested 3-pointer off the catch is a bad result, but it’s the only option on this play considering that Vucevic is dropped back, eliminating the opportunity for Wiggins or Oubre to cut to the rim. This is an instance when Green makes things more difficult for Curry, not easier.
Most of the time, the Warriors can live with these kinds of possessions. But the issue came to a head on the final play. With a chance to tie the game, Curry was blitzed by Micheal Carter-Williams and Vucevic. In an attempt to shake loose, Curry passed to Green, who pitched it back to Curry. The problem was that Green never even looked at the basket — he’s practically facing the other direction — and Vucevic and Williams simply resumed their double-team.
Curry is perhaps the greatest ever at making contested jumpers, but the secret to leveraging his all-world shooting is by getting open shots for teammates. Often, that teammate is Green, and he’s not taking advantage.
Rotation questions ahead: After tonight, the Warriors may have just one more game without centers James Wiseman and Kevon Looney. Both are expected to return from injury during this four-game trip, giving Kerr more players than he can fit into the rotation.
“I’m going to have to have some difficult conversations with several guys,” Kerr said.
Wiseman (left wrist sprain) and Looney (left ankle sprain) have been ruled out for Saturday’s game in Charlotte, but could play as soon as Tuesday’s game in New York. Both players will re-enter the lineup and play several minutes. Kerr won’t be able to play all 12 healthy players. That could force contributors such as Eric Paschall and Juan Toscano-Anderson, who have thrived in small-ball lineups for stretches, and others out of the rotation.
“I’d love to find (minutes) for Eric and Juan, and I’d love to play Draymond at the five, and I’d love to develop James and play him as much as possible,” Kerr said. “I want to start Looney because Looney gets us off to a great start, and our best defensive lineup is with him at center. I’d like to do all of those things, but I can’t.”
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