Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry (30) goes for a lay-up during the first quarter of an exhibition game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Chase Center on October 10, 2019 in San Francisco. (Chris Victorio | Special to the S.F. Examiner).

Curry scores 40 in sign of things to come for Warriors

Stephen Curry fires off 18 shots in three quarters as Golden State easily blows by Timberwolves

CHASE CENTER — Stephen Curry got stuck in traffic on Thursday, “just like any Bay Area resident,” he lamented. Because of that, he was 25 minutes late to the arena.

It disrupted the pregame routine he’d had for 10 years. So did the realization that he finally had to bid farewell to his tunnel shot — there’s just no angle that works, he said. Still, Curry posted a game-high 40 points in a 143-123 exhibition win against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

In a season set to be defined by change, the one thing Golden State can still depend on is Curry. In a game where D’Angelo Russell looked closer to game shape and rookie Jordan Poole looked not just competent, but effective, Curry still had to take 19 shots in Golden State’s first win at the Chase Center. It was a game indicative of how Golden State will have to play for the next three months, until Klay Thompson returns from ACL reconstruction.

“He’s going to have a large offensive burden all year,” said head coach Steve Kerr. “Just the nature of the roster and what we’ve lost, from a scoring standpoint and a playmaking standpoint.”

The good news for the Warriors is that Curry — who played 25 minutes — looked to be as close as possible to ready for regular-season play, going 14-of-19 from the field, 6-of-9 from 3-point range, 6-of-6 from the line and adding six rebounds, six assists and two steals. He’s likely to sit out one of two games in Los Angeles next week, but Kerr wants to get him up to 30 minutes in the two more preseason games he does play.

Russell, though, needs the extra minutes. He said this week that it takes him until about the fourth or fifth regular-season game before he’s truly back in basketball shape. A knee injury suffered before his first season with the Brooklyn Nets forced him to re-evaluate his offseason playing habits, and since then, he hasn’t played much — if at all — during the summer, necessitating a longer ramp-up.

In his second exhibition game this year, Russell looked much closer to regular-season shape as he played over 25 minutes against the Timberwolves, shimmy-shaking to get by a defender and hit a floater with 9:15 to go in the first half. His biggest challenge at this point is getting in sync with his teammates. Three minutes after his floater, he picked up a steal, but stumbled over mid-court and bounced a pass to Poole out of bounds.

Russell and Curry were staggered, with Russell starting and playing much of the second quarter while Curry sat. That appears to be what Golden State will continue to do throughout the season, to keep at least one prominent scoring threat on the court until Thompson can return after the February 16 All-Star game.

Russell — the scoring punch brought in to replace the departed Kevin Durant — finished 7-of-14 from the field for 16 points, hitting 2-of-8 from three. It was a sight better than his 2-for-9 line in the preseason opener, and he, Curry and Draymond Green all played into the third quarter, one of Kerr’s goals for the game.

Poole showed the ability to score at all levels, following up a 17-point debut with 19 points on 6-for-12 in 21 minutes, adding three rebounds, drilling a pair of threes and hitting a driving floater off the glass within the span of two minutes late in the fourth quarter.

“We like his aggression, and I don’t mind him taking quick shots,” Kerr said. “I want him to feel confident and comfortable out there. He’s a very confident young player, and we’re going to try and feed into that.”

When Poole was on the floor with Curry and Russell, the offense hummed.

“They looked great,” Kerr said. “We’re obviously smaller in the back court than we’ve ever been, so defensively, we’re going to be very challenged without Klay and Andre [Iguodala], but offensively, we’ve got some shooting. D’Angelo can really shoot, and Jordan has had two excellent nights shooting the ball. He’s had a hell of a camp, too. We like our new guys.”

With all three on the court, Curry hit a three to put Golden State up 98-86, shrugging his shoulders as he ran up the Timberwolves bench with just over six minutes to go in the third. It was the biggest lead of the night for either team, up to that point.

“He’s not going to play like this every night,” Kerr said. “We know that, so we’ve really got to work to develop our identity and our efficiency and keep working with these young guys. Tonight was a good step in that direction.”

Roster Notes:

Marquese Chriss continued to impress, going 3-of-6 from the floor for eight points, pulling down 11 rebounds and dishing out four assists in 26 minutes. He said this week that he’d be open to a two-way deal with Golden State, but only as a last resort. He may wind up forcing the issue, as it looks like he’s playing his way into a guaranteed contract, if not with the Warriors, than with someone else.

“Plus-18 tonight in 25 minutes, had 11 boards for us, four assists, really good screen-setter, so it’s been an interesting camp,” Kerr said. “… He has more skill as a passer and as a screener than I realized.”

Chriss has said it’s his mission in camp to show that he’s coachable (he’d heard pundits and league types question his basketball IQ). After playing for three teams in three years, he’s happy — and effective — in Golden State’s system.

“It’s easy when all I have to do is be the energy guy that sets screens and gets Steph open,” Chriss said. “That’s fun for me. Being able to crash the boards and get easy buckets, easy put-backs and rebounds. Since the first day, they’ve made me feel comfortable, and made me feel welcome.”

If Chriss, a 22-year-old, 6-foot-10, 240-pound former lottery pick, continues his strong play, the Warriors may have little choice but to cut Alfonzo McKinnie loose, no matter how set they are on keeping him. Glenn Robinson III has integrated very into the system as the starting three, and after Thursday’s start, was roundly praised going 6-of-11 from the field and 1-for-3 from beyond the arc for 13 points, with two assists and five rebounds in 20 minutes.

“I liked Glenn’s aggression, how he recognized, on back-to-back plays, as he caught the ball in transition, to run a dribble-handoff with Steph. It’s always a good option. That recognition is really important on our team. For some guys, it takes longer to figure out.

“When you come to this team and you realize the weaponry, the arsenal that Steph has, and the ability to shot-make, you need to recognize the situations where he’s a threat. One of those is catching the ball on the run and flipping it back to him, because he’s always moving. Glenn did a great job of that tonight. He knocked down a three, did a good job defensively. He’s done a nice job in camp.”

McKinnie, coming off the bench, went 1-for-4 for two points in nearly 16 minutes, with seven rebounds and one assist on the night.

*****

Alec Burks, who could come off the bench as a three (another possible reason why Golden State could cut McKinnie loose), is on the shelf with a right ankle sprain, and there’s no timetable for his return. He’s getting better, but has not practiced since the injury.

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