CHASE CENTER — After scoring 32 points in the Warriors’ 124-103 win over the Los Angeles Lakers in the preseason finale, Stephen Curry eased into the leather chair in front of Klay Thompson’s locker.
With Thompson on the mend from ACL reconstruction, he’d already left the building. Curry felt it would be only fitting to hold his interview in his Splash Brother’s seat.
Golden State’s last dress rehearsal before an Oct. 24 opening night against the Clippers reinforced the issues that have plagued them throughout the preseason: An uneven team with nine newcomers and bereft of many of its most diligent defenders from years past, is going to have to lean heavily on Curry. A lot will have to go right for the team to even be in playoff contention by the time Thompson returns.
“Honestly, it’s really hard to tell what we are, because we don’t have some key guys that we borught in here for a reason,” Curry said. “We’ve got our rookies and young guys who’ve got some good experience, some reps. When their number is called, they’ll hopefully be confident with what they can provide.”
With eight players 23 or younger and Thompson out until late February, the Warriors can no longer rely on multiple superstars able to just turn on the effort late in games, a luxury they had for much of the last five seasons. Even with Curry, Golden State risks getting into insurmountable holes early in games.
Curry and All-Star D’Angelo Russell couldn’t find enough of a rhythm together on offense early (which has been another constant theme) to make up for a defense that came in ranked 31st out of 38 teams that have played in the preseason.
Facing a Los Angeles lineup more befitting the G League, the Warriors allowed 20 points in the first 6:32. Golden State trailed by as many as 13 in the first quarter, as Los Angeles posted a 76.8% effective field goal percentage.
“Some good, some bad, but another game under our belts, and we’ve got a lot of work ahead,” said head coach Steve Kerr, whose team has lost centers three centers to injury — Willie Cauley-Stein (mid-foot strain), Kevon Looney (hamstring) and Alen Smailagic (ankle) — and had to rely on camp invitee Marquese Chriss to fill the void.
After being unofficially named to the 15-man roster on Saturday, Chriss startred and went 3-of-6 with seven rebounds and five assists (one fewer than Curry) in 22 minutes, with three steals, clogging the passing lanes in the post. He and Cauley-Stein will have to live up to their lottery-pick past for Golden State to be competitive in the post.
The other defensive bright spot was rookie Eric Paschall, who, on a team that will struggle mightily on defense this season, will earn fans for his ability to be an on-ball defender against every position, which has improved over the course of the preseason.
With Paschall and Jordan Poole on the court with Russell to start the second quarter, the Warriors were able to keep close, taking 50-47 lead with 6:10 to go before the break. Both of them have to outperform their draft positions and become regular rotation contributors from the start.
Without Curry, Russell overcame an 0-for-4 first quarter to go 4-for-7 in the third. He finished 9-of-19 from the field and 6-of-11 from three for 29 points in 29 minutes — his best night of the preseason, but both he and Curry did their best work when the other was off the floor.
After Russell exited and Curry and Green re-entered, Golden State went on a 21-8 run, capped by a wild Curry corner three at the buzzer to take a 71-55 lead, and never trailed again. He hit another sprawling, sliding 3-pointer as he was fouled by Marcus Allen, and hit the and-one to put Golden State up by 19 with five minutes to go.
As Curry — who finished 9-of-20 from the field and 6-of-15 from three in 32 minutes — finished his interviews, he looked up at Thompson’s glass name plate. “Thanks, Klay,” Curry said, before tripping as he hurried out of the locker room.