Midway through the third quarter, as the Indiana Pacers attempted to rally back from a near-double-digit deficit, Indiana big-man Domantas Sabonis sliced down the baseline.
Losing Warriors guards Kelly Oubre Jr. and Stephen Curry, who attempted to slow down the 6-foot-11 Lithuanian, Sabonis appeared to have a clean look at the basket from point-blank range.
Lunging to the backboard and swatting with his massive left hand, however, Golden State’s rookie center James Wiseman demolished the highlight-worthy play, sending Sabonis’ shot flying off of the backboard.
Unfortunately for Golden State, while it was able to revive its defensive identity, it was not enough to stifle the visiting Indiana Pacers. With a 104-95 loss to Indiana (7-4) Tuesday night, the Warriors (6-5) close their seven-game home stand on a disappointing note.
“Give all the credit to Indiana, they’re a tough team,” head coach Steve Kerr said. “They earned it. They played a great game tonight.”
Heading into Tuesday night, Golden State ranked as the fifth-worst defensive team in the NBA, allowing 116.6 points per game.
Over the course of their last three games, though, the Warriors have found a way to clean up their defensive effort, allowing just 106 points per game.
The first quarter carried this theme as Golden State held the Pacers to just 4-for-16 from the field through the first nine minutes of the game. Forcing four turnovers to boot, the Warriors were able to finish the first frame with a nine-point advantage.
In addition to the defensive revelation, Golden State was happily surprised to see Oubre, who was acquired this off season in the wake of Klay Thompson’s Achilles injury, find a bit of offensive flow.
“Eventually that narrative will turn on its head,” Curry said. “Tonight was solid, the way he started the game with confidence… We’ve all been telling him to stick with it and knowing that it’s going to turn around.”
Through the first 10 games of the season, Oubre struggled immensely shooting the ball, particularly from three-point range. In fact, Oubre shot just 13 percent from behind the arc — the worst of his six-year NBA career.
In the first half, however, Oubre was able to find the range, shooting 5-for-6 from the field including 3-for-4 from behind the arc. With 15 first-half points, Oubre led all scorers as Golden State earned a seven-point lead by the break.
Coming out of halftime, the Warriors were unable to build on their lead as the Pacers were able to use their size to find holes in Golden State’s defense.
Utilizing its big men in Sabonis and Myles Turner — who finished as the game with 18 and 22 points respectively — Indiana outscored the Warriors by five points in the third quarter while holding Golden State to just 18 points.
“Myles Turner did a lot of his damage at the 3-point line tonight. He’s a very versatile big,” Warriors center Kevon Looney said “Sabonis is very talented around the rim… It’s not typical that we play against two bigs at one time.”
Some of Golden State’s offensive woes came from the fact that they were without second-year big Eric Paschall, who entered the NBA’s COVID protocol Tuesday. Paschall, who plays center in Golden State’s second unit has become the catalyst for its scoring punch.
“That’s become a really formidable group and obviously we’ve run most of our offense through Eric,” Kerr said. “This is just how it’s gone this season. There are a lot of absences, but you have to be ready to roll no matter who you have out there.”
In addition, much of Indiana’s defensive attention went to Curry, who was held to a 41-percent shooting percentage and 20 points on the night.
In fact, Curry didn’t even attempt his first shot until the 4:03 mark of the first quarter and was held to just seven points in the first half.
Through the fourth quarter, Golden State’s defensive effort kept them ahead of Indiana for nearly four minutes. Continuing to go to its bigs as well as guard Justin Holiday, however, the Pacers took their first lead of the game since the first quarter, 82-80, with 8:34 to play.
Trading baskets throughout the final frame, Golden State was able to keep pace with Indiana, knotting the game at 90 with three minutes to play. It was then that the Warriors’ defense finally broke.
Allowing the Pacers to put on a 13-0 run to end the game, Golden State’s offense also stalled out, erasing what was an outstanding night from a defensive standpoint and dropping what would have been a third-consecutive win to close out a long homestand.
“It’s the NBA and it’s a game or runs,” Curry said. “It was an untimely one for us in the fourth quarter. They made some big shots and we missed a couple and the whole momentum just swung in the blink of an eye.”
While finishing that seven-game home-stretch 4-3 isn’t what the Warriors wanted, they still believe their young roster is heading in a favorable direction.
“[It’s] not as good as 5-2 would have sounded,” Kerr said. “A lot of really good signs and bright spots. We’re going to get a lot better as we go and I would say over the seven-game home stand, we’ve made some big strides.”