CHASE CENTER — Late in the third quarter of Golden State’s 127-110 loss to the San Antonio Spurs, the Chase Center crowd gave its biggest cheer of the night. To the U.S. Women’s National Basketball team.
This is life without Stephen Curry. In their first year in a brand-new, $1.4 billion arena, and their first year back in San Francisco in five decades, the Warriors have to adjust expectations, head coach Steve Kerr said. Consider them adjusted.
With D’Angelo Russell leading the way with 30 points, and Draymond Green tallying eight rebounds and seven assists despite a sprained finger, Golden State posted the type of box score it will need to have to at least be competitive as Curry recovers from surgery to repair a broken metacarpal in his left hand. Still, the Warriors failed to record their first win in their new building.
“We’ve went the bulk of five years beating up on pretty much everyone,” Green said. “Right now it’s our turn to get beat up on.”
Spurs guard and St. Mary’s product Patty Mills, though, said beating this version of Golden State didn’t quite have the meaning of beating the team that went to five NBA Finals in five years and won three titles.
“It’s not the same,” said Mills, who scored 31 points, marking the first time in five years he’s broken the 30-point mark.
Without all but one member of their championship core — Green — the Warriors now have to lean on their eight newcomers age 23 or younger. Defense and foul discipline are naturally going to suffer, and it showed on Friday, with the Spurs attempting 30 shots from the free throw line and pulling down 15 offensive rebounds.
Offensively, Kerr said Golden State’s menu of plays will be pared down with Curry out, along with concepts and motions, allowing the roster — much of which will return next season to a healthy Curry, a recovered Klay Thompson and a likely lottery pick — to more thoroughly absorb at least a piece of the offense in preparation for next season.
As the primary ball handler without Curry, Russell had as dominant a quarter as he’s had as a Warrior, scoring 14 points and keeping Golden State within two points of the Spurs in the first stanza. Russell finished the first half with 19 points in 17 minutes, going 5-of-10 from the field and 2-of-5 from three, but San Antonio was able to build its lead as high as seven in the second quarter, before it ballooned to 25 in the third.
After a 10-2 third-quarter run by Golden State, San Antonio went on a 13-4 run of its own, and Golden State never closed to within single digits again. The Warriors are now giving up 126.4 points per game.
After every Warriors attack, the Spurs predictably came back to expand the lead as Golden State’s shooting went cold. That’s the reality the Warriors will have to live with for the remainder of Curry’s recovery, as the offense is funneled not only through Russell, but through mercurial rookie shooter Jordan Poole, who went 7-of-13 from the field and 4-of-7 from three starting at the point, scoring in double digits for the second time this season with a career-high 20.
While much of the offense was run through Russell (9-for-24 from the field, 3-of-11 from 3-point range), Golden State still managed 25 assists on 39 field goals, and got big plays from Glenn Robinson (a third-quarter run-out, one-handed jam to cap a 10-2 Golden State run) and Marquese Chriss, who came back to go 2-of-4 for four points and seven boards in 17 minutes — with a backdoor cut for a third-quarter jam off a Russell pass — after not playing against Phoenix. Willie Cauley-Stein improved from his abbreviated debut following a mid-foot strain, playing 17 minutes and showing his ability to finish at the rim as a lob threat, and to defend the low post, scoring six points and grabbing five rebounds.
“We are playing to our strength,” said Damion Lee, who had another strong game, going 6-of-9 for 16 points in 25 minutes and is proving to be a value get on a two-way deal. “D-Lo is amazing at the pick-and-roll, we have bigs that can rim-roll and get to the rim and finish. We have guys that can score the ball. Everybody is going to get an opportunity. It’s just a matter of taking advantage of it.”
Alec Burks quietly had a very solid night off the bench at the three, stemming that 13-4 run with a corner three that brought a listless Chase Center crowd out of its stupor, and going 5-for-9 for 14 points in 16 minutes.
That was about as close as Golden State would get the rest of the way. Eric Paschall — who showed promise with a 20-point game against Phoenix — scored just six. Ky Bowman and Omari Spellman — who will have to prove that they belong in the NBA with big minutes given the Warriors’ short bench — played a combined 18 minutes and scored a combined four points.
“There were definitely less fans there tonight, which is to be expected,” Green said. “It’s a different vibe, for sure.”