For the first time in its short history Friday, Chase Center — which the Golden State Warriors adopted as their new home in 2019 — hosted a regular season NBA game devoid of fans.
The only thing more barren than the 18,000 seats covered by giant blue tarps, however, was Golden State’s three-point stat line.
Taken to task by the visiting Portland Trailblazers in its home opener for the 2020-21 NBA season, Golden State found itself shockingly out-shot from beyond the arc, falling 123-98 Friday night.
“They came out smoking hot, they were making everything… They just took it to us,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said. “They were the aggressor and they played a great game and we played a very poor game.”
New Year’s Day appeared to bring hopeful news for the Warriors as Steve Kerr announced former Defensive Player of the Year Draymond Green would suit up for his first start in 307 days.
In addition to his savvy defensive presence, Green was also expected to bring extra ball movement and offensive flow to a Warriors team that struggled to score in four games this year.
“He’s our leading assist guy,” Kerr said before tipoff. “He’ll push the ball and generate pace and fing guys open.”
Neither of Green’s contributions would matter, however, as Golden State watched Portland open up a 20-point lead within the first seven minutes of play.
Perhaps the most perplexing part was the fact that the Blazers utilized a facet of the game Golden State had historically used to decimate its opponents over the last six years; the three point line from which they outshot the Warriors 20-7.
Heading into Friday’s game, the Warriors sat as the worst team in the NBA defending the three-point line. According to ESPN.com, Golden State allowed opponents to hit over 44-percent of their attempted triples.
Portland took advantage of this weakness very early.
Of its first six shots made of the game, five came as three-pointers for Portland. By utilizing off-ball screens coupled with slow Warriors’ defensive rotations, the Trailblazers found open three-point shots at will.
“Defense is about five men being connected,” Kerr said. “We’re getting a lot of holes at the point of attack and then we’re getting broken down and teams are swinging the ball into open shots.”
Six-year veteran CJ McCollumn quickly emerged as the early ringleader of this three-point barrage, knocking down all four of the triples he attempted in the first quarter, which added to a total of 12 first-half threes for Portland.
McCollumn’s backcourt teammate Damian Lillard would wind up as the game’s leading scorer with 34 points, though, shooting over 50-percent from the field. Of those 34 points, 18 came from long-range.
While the Blazers proceeded to stripe shots from distance, the Warriors found no such luck as their aim appeared to be sorely off from everywhere on the court, including the three-point line.
Although Golden State was able to pull within 12 points by the end of the first half — thanks to a quick eight points off the bench in the second quarter from second-year forward Eric Paschall — being outscored 12-4 from distance foreshadowed a very similar second half.
Warriors guard Kelly Oubre, who started the season 0-17 from beyond the arc, continued to struggle shooting as he missed all four three-point shots he hoisted. Oubre finished the game as a -22 with just 10 points and four rebounds.
In addition, Warriors guard Stephen Curry was quiet with his long-range jumpshot. Just 4-12 from three-point land, Curry scored a team-high 26 points, 8 rebounds and five assists on the night.
Some of Golden State’s offensive woes seemed to come from a lack of movement from players off the ball. On several occasions, particularly in the early goings of the night, Warriors players looked stagnant and unable to move freely on the court.
“We have to watch tape and keep practicing, that’s all we can do,” Kerr said after the game. “See where we can work better and get after it. I have to figure out what I can do on my end to generate more offensive flow.”
Unfortunately for the Warriors, they won’t have as much time to adjust as they’d like. On Sunday evening, Golden State will take on Portland yet again for their second tilt in a row.
“We get to come back and prove we can make those adjustments, Curry said. “Portland is a great team, I’m sure they’re going to do some things differently but that’s the cool part of this situation, it’s like a mini playoff series. We get to make the adjustments and come back.”
Despite the quick turnaround, one thing the Warriors don’t expect is another abysmal evening shooting the ball like they experienced Friday.
“Just keep playing, keep hooping. This is basketball. We’ve played it our whole lives,” Warriors guard Andrew Wiggins said. “It’s going to come. We have to be patient… Shots are going to fall. We’re not worried about that.”
Warriors second overall pick James Wiseman injured his left ankle late in the fourth quarter as he inadvertently stepped on the back of Curry’s shoe during a fast-break.
Wiseman was able to walk off of the court under his own power without a noticeable limp and is expected to play Sunday evening.
“I stepped on the back of Steph’s shoe and it kind of tweaked,” Wiseman said. “I had to walk it off but as I put it on ice and just took it out [of the shoe]. It’s better now.”