CHASE CENTER — After the Stephen Curry half-court warm-ups, after Al Attles delivered the ceremonial jump ball, after Carlos Santana rocked the National Anthem, Klay Thompson grabbed the microphone on opening night at the Golden State Warriors’ $1.4 billion Chase Center.
The injured Splash Brother — dressed in a crisp black suit and white shirt instead of Warriors warmups — admitted that, yes, “it’s been an offseason of change, with a new building, a lot of new faces, but see,” he said, pointing to the rafters, “the banners came with us.”
With nine newcomers and only two healthy members remaining from the core that won three titles over the last five years, Golden State’s 141-122 loss to the revamped Los Angeles Clippers was by turns exciting, frustrating, encouraging and frightening, especially for those who shelled out thousands of dollars for seats. It was also expected.
“A night like tonight, it’s going to happen again,” said head coach Steve Kerr. “This is the reality. There are going to be nights like this this year.”
The Clippers took the Warriors to six games in the first round of last year’s playoffs when Golden State was at the height of its powers. That team kept its core of Montrezl Harrell, Landry Shamet, Patrick Beverley and Lou Williams, while adding Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and the currently-injured Paul George.
Golden State lost Thompson to an ACL reconstruction, and after the departures of Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, were expected to lean heavily on Curry and newly-acquired D’Angelo Russell to produce on offense, and on Draymond Green to beat eight 23-or-younger players into shape on defense.
On Thursday, the Warriors allowed the Clippers to shoot 62.5% from the field and 18-of-33 (54.5%) from three.
“Our defense was attrocious, our defense was pathetic,” Green said.
Leonard scored 21 in 21 minutes, with nine assists and five rebounds. Williams scored 22 off the bench in 30 minutes, adding eight assists. The Clippers had 33 helpers on 50 field goals.
“I’m thinking of the old John McKay’s old line: What do you think of your team’s execution? I’m all for it,” Kerr said. “Sorry. That was in bad taste.”
Even with Curry, Russell and Green on the floor to start, Golden State got down 14-0 and, in an echo of four of their five preseason games, started out 1-of-8 from the field. Russell went on a personal 10-2 run, banging home a pair of 3-pointers to get Golden State within four, but that was as close as Golden State would get.
“It doesn’t feel very good,” Kerr said. “Losing stinks. It’s no fun. This is more the reality of the NBA. For the last five years, we’ve lived in a world that isn’t supposed to exist. Record-wise, the best stretch anybody’s had over five years … We’re starting over in many respects.”
Rookie Eric Paschall flashed defensive ability and went 6-for-12 for 14 points, Glenn Robinson III played capable defense on Leonard and and Jacob Evans looked to have a much cleaner — and more confident — shot than he had as a rookie, going 5-of-9 from the field and 4-of-6 from 3-point range. Rookie Jordan Poole flashed his trademark shooting confidence, though he went 2-for-13.
“I’m not a moral victory guy,” Green said. “We f***ing sucked.”
Golden State will need all of those youngsters to be more than just nice pieces or development talents if they’re to remain in playoff contention by the time Thompson returns — if he does — late in the season. One of them will have to develop into a reliable — or at least competent — third scoring option, without Durant around to give space to Curry, Green and Russell.
Without that option, Los Angeles mobbed Curry and Russell, taking way open looks and driving lanes while sending double teams at Curry on nearly every possession.
“We just wanted to beat ‘em down, beat ‘em down, beat ‘em down,” Patrick Beverley said.
Curry and Russel went a combined 5-for-13 after halftime. Russell scored 20 and went 6-for-16 from the field on the night. Curry went 2-for-11 from three and scored 23 points with eight turnovers.
“He’s definitely going to get more attention,” Kerr said. “You think of who he’s lost next to him — Kevin, Shaun, Andre — it’s an awful lot of firepower. He understands what he’s going to face, more attention, more double teams, more trapping. He’ll be the first to tell you that his eight turnovers, a lot of them were careless.”
The defensive focus on Curry and the growing pains of a young team will continue, even if Golden State stays relatively healthy.
Green — who was far from his usual dominant self on defense, posting a minus-35 — banged his right elbow on Beverly’s shoulder or elbow two minutes into the game, and didn’t return until the start of the second quarter, with the elbow heavily wrapped. It was still sore after the game, and, Green said, it’ll probably get worse, as he aggrivated a nerve issue he’s dealt with for several years. He went 2-for-5 afterwards, and didn’t take a shot in the third quarter.
Kevon Looney, who started the at center after missing the entire season with a hamstring strain, tweaked that same hamstring and played just 10 minutes, sitting the entire second half.
“That obviously hurt us,” Kerr said. “Loon did a great job in the first half, and defensively, without him, we really struggled, to say the least.”
The first Warriors home game in San Francisco since 1971 showed just how far the Clippers have come as a Western Conference power, and how far the post-championship-era Warriors have to go before they’re back in that conversation.
“Stay with us,” Thompson asked the crowd before the game. “We have a lot of guys eager to prove themselves.”