The Warriors got high on their own supply on Tuesday, spotting the Thunder an early lead that OKC expanded to 15 points in the second quarter.
It’s easy to understand why the Warriors — a team that is loaded with veterans at this juncture — overlooked a Thunder team that is doing demolition ahead of a rebuild.
It’s as easy to understand why a Thunder team with young legs and nothing to lose was able to take advantage with a season-high 59 first-half points.
When the Warriors were beating every team in the NBA with ease, Golden State coach Steve Kerr would remind the team — both in person and through the media — to carry “appropriate fear”.
It’s a line that Kerr stole from Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. It means to respect every opponent, no matter how many 18-year-olds are on the floor.
It’s bene a few years since the Warriors have needed such a speech. You could argue that they were the team that teams needed to psyche themselves up to play.
But things have changed. This is a good Warriors team. A really good team. A title-contender, perhaps. (We’ll see how Klay Thompson and James Wiseman look when they return.)
The Warriors locked in for the third quarter, though — remember when that was a thing? — led by Damion Lee, Otto Porter, Andrew Wiggins, and — get this — competent team defense.
Oh, there was some guy named Curry, too, who was plus-16 in the quarter, scoring seven points.
It’s a great sign that the Dubs heeded the important lesson that they are, once again, the hunted, without taking a loss in the process.
The Warriors won 106-98 are now 4-0 for the first time since their 73-win season.
While setting an NBA record is a laughable concept, this early start no doubt has preseason pessimists re-writing their predictions.
Now in the role of Jordan Poole: Damion Lee
There’s no way to sugarcoat it. While Jordan Poole had a nice finish to Tuesday’s game, his shooting and defense were burning the Warriors for three quarters.
Through three frames, he was 2-for-9 from the floor and 0-for-6 from beyond the arc — minus-16 in the game.
For a player who is being asked to be the Warriors’ No. 2 option, that’s a big issue.
Luckily, Andrew Wiggins came alive in the second half, and Damion Lee decided that he could play the role of Poole.
Lee has been stellar for the Warriors all season, but Tuesday was his best game of his young campaign, scoring a career-high 20 points in the contest.
So far this season, Lee is shooting 47 percent from the field from beyond the line in 26 minutes per contest. His 14 points per game have been huge, and his defense has been even bigger. Lee isn’t the tallest, the fastest, or the strongest, but he knows where to be in the Warriors’ defense and closes out hard on rotations. Effort matters as much as anything when playing defense.
The egalitarian nature of this Warriors team makes Lee’s play Tuesday night part of the plan.
They could have found Weakness in Numbers, but instead, Lee came through when Poole faded.
And while Lee’s shooting percentages are unlikely to hold — even with the Warriors’ improved spacing this season — if double-digit scoring is par for the course for the guard, the Dubs are in great shape this season.
Every great team has one on the bench: A gamechanger.
They don’t put up stats, but they impact the game.
Just as Juan Toscano Anderson did on Tuesday.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr was looking to upend Tuesday’s game, because of course he was. So he ran the recently signed Chris Chiozza and JTA into the contest in the second quarter.
There was a bit of a spark.
In the third quarter, another one. JTA played nearly six minutes and in his time on the floor, he was a plus-11.
He didn’t attempt a shot. He didn’t have a rebound or an assist, but he made an impact.
Defensively, he’s everywhere. Offensively, he moves the ball and sets great screens, setting up the ideal offense for the Dubs.
Toscano-Anderson ended the game with a 3-pointer and a couple of free throws.
Not every game will call for the full Toscano-Anderson experience — Oklahoma City’s small personnel was a big factor on Tuesday — but don’t underestimate how he can affect a game. He’s a big-time player for the Warriors and even in a frame where he didn’t have a stat, he proved it once again against the Thunder.