The Golden State Warriors face an 0-2 hole after the Sacramento Kings won another drama-filled nail-biter 114-106 at Golden One Center on Monday. Here are three takeaways from the defending champions’ hard-fought yet frustratingly familiar Game 2 loss.
Turnovers doom Warriors…again
TNT’s Jared Greenberg asked Steve Kerr the question on every Warriors fan’s mind after a first quarter rife with unforced errors: How would the Dubs finally curb their era-long penchant for turnovers? Even though his team coughed up the ball nine(!) times in the game’s first 12 minutes alone, Kerr played it cool, shrugging off Golden State’s turnover woes to narrow the focus toward its rugged, multiple-effort defense.
“The game is incredibly physical. We held them to 17 points,” he said. “I’m not worried about the turnovers. Our defense has been fantastic.”
The Warriors were stout enough on defense to take Game 2 despite the Kings’ ongoing assault on the offensive glass, relentless pace after securing defensive rebounds and the inability of anyone other than Andrew Wiggins to make De’Aaron Fox uncomfortable one-on-one. Sacramento labored to a below-average 111.8 offensive rating on Tuesday, finishing with an ugly 50.5 effective field goal percentage and committing its own early rash of turnovers.
Offense is why Golden State is suddenly facing its first 2-0 deficit in the playoffs since 2007, when the ‘We Believe’ Dubs’ dreams of a championship began fading against the Utah Jazz in the Western Conference Semifinals.
The Warriors shot just 13-of-40 from deep, their second straight game of ~32% shooting on triples. Stephen Curry finished just 9-of-21, and Wiggins went cold late after helping keep the offense afloat in the first three quarters. =
Jordan Poole would’ve been invisible if his flailing, failed drives to the rim weren’t so dramatic. The Kings paid no attention to Draymond Green away from the ball or even rolling to the basket, crunching the floor on Golden State’s most dangerous players.
None of that would’ve mattered in the end if the Dubs weren’t so careless with the ball from start to finish in Game 2.
This first quarter turnover from Klay Thompson, apparently completely unaware of the need to protect your dribble from lurking defenders when the ball changes sides, was the Warriors’ third in as many minutes to start the action.
Who barfed up Golden State’s first two giveaways before then? Curry and Green, of course, who each finished with a game-high five turnovers on Monday.
These back-to-back unforced errors from the second quarter would be truly vexing from a pair of four-time champions if Curry and Green hadn’t been making them seem commonplace since 2022-23 tipped off.
The Warriors had a golden opportunity to wash away a rough second quarter by tying the game heading into intermission.
Instead of getting a good look in the final minute of the first half, Curry misdiagnosed the Kings’ pick-and-roll coverage, throwing a bounce pass right to Davion Mitchell after a switch.
Curry and Green had at least some experience playing together before Game 2, right?
Curry’s been dealing with getting trapped just inside halfcourt for the better part of a decade, but you wouldn’t have known it on Monday.
Golden State had all the momentum here, too, fighting through a disastrous start to the second half to have the chance to make it a one-possession game with Curry getting a breather on the bench.
But rather than finding Wiggins in the corner for a driven close-out or extra pass to an open Moses Moody— dusted off after halftime for some some pivotal minutes in the third or fourth quarter—for three, Poole sailed his pass into the fourth row at Golden One Center.
Looking for a silver lining? The Warriors had just one turnover in the fourth quarter, key to a comeback bid that might’ve been successful had Green not been ejected for reacting to Domantas Sabonis’ leg grab by forcefully stepping on his chest.
But there are no moral victories in the postseason. Two games into the first round, the Dubs are exactly who we thought they were throughout a tumultuous regular season: Talented enough to beat anyone, even on the road, but only if they can stay out of their own way.
Golden State couldn’t do it on Monday, taking the team bus back to the Bay with hopes of winning back-to-back titles dimmer than ever.
Andrew Wiggins is more than ready
It’s a shame the Warriors postseason run could be so brief. For the second consecutive spring, Wiggins is cementing himself as the rare non-star wing who’s a consistent two-way force in the playoffs.
Starting after coming off the bench in the playoff opener, his first action since before the All-Star break, Wiggins was once again Golden State’s best player at times in Game 2. He created multiple scores for himself in isolation, finished plays as a cutter and spot-up shooter in the flow of the offense and made a bigger impact on the glass than he did Saturday night.
Wiggins went 2-of-8 from three and didn’t produce many open looks for his teammates, but just his imminent threat as a versatile, three-level scorer was huge for the Warriors offensively. Still, by far his greatest influence came on the other side of the ball, where his smothering individual defense on Fox was Golden State’s sole answer for the Kings’ star point guard.
The Warriors trailed 91-88 following Green’s ejection with 7:03 remaining. Kerr gave a clearly exhausted Wiggins a blow for the next two-and-a-half minutes, hoping to have him fresh for crunch-time—when Fox took control of Game 1 and dominated all season long. Unfortunately for Golden State, Wiggins’ respite just got Fox’s fourth quarter party started a bit early.
First, Fox drove right and leaned back for a baseline jumper over Gary Payton II. Then he got Moody on a switch, slamming the Dubs’ seldom-used sophomore into a screen before draining a 12-footer. Fox went back to that well a minute later, targeting Thompson in pick-and-roll and casually pulling up for an elbow jumper as Klay failed to recover for an effective contest.
The Warriors might’ve lost Game 2 even if Wiggins, who played 39 minutes, was able to go the entire fourth quarter, matching Fox step-for-step. Green’s absence probably loomed too large on both ends for them to steal a win in the clutch.
But given the ease with which Fox roasted anyone else checking him on Monday, even Payton and Jonathan Kuminga, it’s abundantly clear Golden State’s slim chance of climbing out of an 0-2 hole would be a non-starter without Wiggins. He’s done more in this series so far than ever could’ve been expected. Let’s hope Wiggins’ superlative effort is matched by his teammates’ en masse come Game 3.
A zero from Jordan Poole
Disclaimer: Poole was questionable to play in Game 2, still experiencing discomfort from tweaking his left ankle 48 hours earlier. Still, there was never any doubt he would take the floor. Poole played all 82 games during the regular season and has fought through numerous injuries to be available throughout his time with the Dubs.
It’s clear Poole was less than 100 percent on Monday night, an evident reality even before his veteran teammates confirmed as much on the postgame podium. The overarching point stands regardless: Golden State’s season will soon be over if Poole isn’t much better going forward than he was in Game 2.
The numbers—four points, three rebounds and one assist on 1-of-7 shooting in just 15 minutes—pretty much speak for themselves. Poole, though he buckled down defensively and played with palpable hustle overall, was a zero at best for the Warriors on Monday night, a death-knell versus a Sacramento squad that refuses to give an inch on defense despite lacking personnel.
The Warriors desperately need Poole’s off-dribble dynamism to loosen up an offense clogged by the presence of multiple non-shooters and limited finishers. He tried to slice through those creases at times in Game 2, losing his feet past the first line of defense and throwing up prayers at the basket.
Poole’s ankle injury also seemed to affect his jumper. None of his three shots from long-range were close, including a try in transition that was so short and off-line it barely nicked the underside of the backboard.
There’s an extra day off before this series shifts down I-80 to Chase Center for Game 3. Poole’s ankle is bound to feel a bit better come Thursday night. Just replicating his ho-hum performance from Game 1 won’t be enough from Poole, though.
The Warriors, clawing tooth and nail against the Kings for everything they’re getting offensively, need Poole to be the electric, hyper-efficient playmaker he was this time last year to come back from down 2-0.
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