The Warriors are over .500. It took until Sunday of opening week, but Golden State still has just one loss to its name since adding Kevin Durant after their 106-100 victory over the Suns on Sunday. But once again, the Warriors failed to wow and impress the way so many thought they would out of the gate.
They struggled and trailed at the half before great defense and Kevin Durant took them home in the second half. Here are five takeaways from a sloppy win, but a win nonetheless.
1. They are still incredibly "meh."
You see the talent and you go "Wow." But it's like a star-studded cast in a movie with a really flimsy plot, bad editing and sequences that drag. Honestly, the most exciting sequences come from individual play, like Durant in isolation. The Warriors' numbers were fine, as they scored 35 buckets on 27 assists for a great assist ratio, but everything feels stilted and more like players taking advantage of their superior talent than the ascension to basketball nirvana.
Really, when you look at this game, Durant and Stephen Curry combined for 65 points with incredible efficiency, while Draymond Green missed some shots but had some great defensive plays. Meanwhile, the rest of Durant's team couldn't shoot at all, hitting 1-of-17 from 3-point range outside of the two superstars. But in the end, Durant's team had more talent, and that combined with some sound play for stretches was enough.
This sound familiar? It should. That's exactly how a lot of Oklahoma City games with Durant went down.
2. Turnovers, rebounds, turnovers, rebounds.
The same concerns with the Warriors that showed up immediately vs. the Spurs in the first game remain. They were outrebounded 50-43. They were outscored in second-chance points 13-9. And they were sloppy as all get out. The Warriors gave up 16 turnovers, which led to 25 points for the Suns, most of them live-ball.
The Suns had more fast-break points than the Warriors, an early-season trend that is stunning, with Phoenix topping them 19-18. The Warriors are sloppy and disjointed, but their weaponry is so superior it gets them there. But they're still really flummoxed when in the kinds of chaotic environments they once thrived in. Like this:
These are all things they can clean up, but it's concerning.
3. The half-court defense stepped up.
So how did they win this game if they were so bad everywhere and couldn't shoot?
They played great half-court defense. They were lights out in shutting down everything Phoenix tried to run and played on a string. The Warriors surrendered just .791 points per possession in the half court, when anything below .900 is stellar. They allowed just a 39.6 effective field-goal percentage. They locked them down and that's a positive sign for the Warriors. Their rotations were sound, Durant and Green made plays, and Golden State started to swarm and trap more than we saw in the first two games.
There's so much length, skill and savvy, getting this unit back on track will open up everything else for Golden State.
4. The Suns looked pretty good in the loss.
This win may look a lot better for Golden State in a few weeks. The Suns were expected to be horrible, but they've been competitive in their last two games after getting busted into a million pieces by the Kings on opening night. Tyson Chandler is back to roaming the paint, T.J. Warren may be making a leap (26 points Sunday) and Eric Bledsoe is back to being a terror. They ran out of options in the half court, but the energy and effort were there.
They're even getting impact from rookies like Marquese Chriss. They need to hold onto the rope, but for right now, the Suns' record is bad, but their play is not.
5. The good, the bad, the Draymond.
Green had the above turnover, another turnover, shot 2-of-9, scored just five points. At one point, he found what has been a trend since the Thunder started using the tactic in the WCF: Teams are leaving him wide open to attack Durant and Curry with extra defenders.
On one sequence, Green got caught trying to make the extra pass with no one guarding him, hesitated, thought about it, finally shot ... airballed.
Green's frustration was evident and palpable, and he admitted it after the game, that the whole team is frustrated with not playing better. But in the second half, he committed himself to doing more of the little things, making good defensive plays, rebounding, just being a good complementary piece. That may be the reality with this team, and it would take a big adjustment from Green. He may be back to where he was three years ago, a great, terrific, super role player, but a role player nonetheless.