As the Wizards’ Bradley Beal faded to the right, knocking down his fourth three-pointer of the first quarter, Stephen Curry shook his head as he stared out at the floor.
Sporting a plaid blazer, blue slacks and matching loafers, Curry was relegated to the bench after forgoing what was expected to be his highly anticipated return from a broken hand suffered in October.
Instead it was Beal who stole the spotlight Sunday night, leading the Wizards to a 124-110 win over Golden State in which they shot over 66 percent from behind the three-point line. The loss comes as the Warriors’ 48th of the regular season — the most they’ve had since 2010.
“We let Beal get going right away and then we let [Davis] Bertans get going in the second half,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said after the game. “We have to be much better defensively… I thought we looked tired.”
Golden State’s fatigue was nearly impossible to miss Sunday. After an exhilarating comeback victory over the Phoenix Suns Saturday night, in which the Warriors erased an 18-point deficit in the second half, Golden State was back in the Bay Area for the second half of a back-to-back against Washington.
The severe lack of legs and energy was put on full display as well thanks to an ultra-short bench that featured just eight dressed players for Kerr to work with.
The challenge at hand was a Wizards team armed with a red-hot Beal, who entered Chase Center averaging 45 points over his last five games. This included back-to-back games of 53 and 55 points, respectively.
Appearing to carry his scoring punch to California, Beal opened the first quarter by ripping off 22 points on 6-of-10 shooting including 5-of-6 from the three-point line. Beal’s Curry-like flurry helped Washington build a 35-28 advantage over Golden State, which struggled to stay in front of shooters and effectively contest shots.
“There’s going to be nights like this and you have to count on your defensive awareness when you can’t count on your legs,” Kerr said. “We’re a very young team and we weren’t ready to reach that level yet.”
While Beal forced the Warriors to play from behind early, his production slowed down exponentially after the initial quarter. According to Kerr, this was the product of assigning G-League star Mychal Muder to the Wizards guard in the second quarter and beyond.
Mulder, who was called up on a 10-day contract Thursday afternoon, played a total of 31 minutes Sunday night, following up a 34-minute appearance the night before in Phoenix. Scoring 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting, Mulder was also the only Warriors player to register a positive plus-minus stat as a plus-5. The next closest Golden State player was guard Damion Lee who was a minus-2 on the night.
“He’s been doing great on both sides of the floor,” Warriors guard Andrew Wiggins said after the game. “Defensively he’s getting after it and is showing everyone he can guard multiple positions.”
Mulder’s defensive effort, along with several double-team attacks dialed up by Kerr, limited Beal to just 12 points from the second quarter and beyond as he finished with a game high 34 points.
Unfortunately for Golden State, another accurate three-point shooter closed out the game for the Wizards as Bertans scored 15 of his eventual 29 points in the fourth quarter by way of five triples.
“He shoots the three from 10 feet beyond the three-point line,” Kerr said. “When you can stretch the floor that much, it means everybody else has to cover that much ground. And when you’re trying to deal with Bradley Beal and Bertans is on the weak side, that’s a problem.”
While the loss seemed to come as a frustrating one for the Warriors, as illustrated by Curry’s head shaking and Kerr’s shrugs on the sideline throughout the game, the attention of the team still lies heavily on the status of the former.
According to the team, Curry is still on track to return to the court in the month of March with just over a month remaining in the regular season. But before that can happen, the team’s coaching staff will have to be assured Curry can handle the physicality of game-like action.
“Just wanting [him] to get the feel and get banged around a bit like he’s going to during a game,” Head coach Steve Kerr said in regards to what he needs to see from Curry before he gets back on the floor. “He just needs to get a little more scrimmage time.”
Perhaps equally important, new players on the team — including Mulder — are eager to get on the floor with Curry as many have yet to spend even a single minute together in that setting.
“Obviously I’m super excited about that,” Mulder said. “I really hope he gets back while I’m here… To have him back during my time here would be huge for me. I feel like he would make me better on and off the court.”