Dwight Howard

Warriors takeaways: What we learned in 120-94 blowout loss vs. Lakers

Warriors takeaways: What we learned in 120-94 blowout loss vs. Lakers

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LOS ANGELES -- The Warriors' descent to the bottom of the league standings has been a sight to see through the first month of the season. 

On Wednesday, they added to the futility, losing to the Lakers 120-94, dropping their fifth straight contest. 

The loss marked Golden State's first five-game losing streak under coach Steve Kerr and snapped a three-game regular-season winning streak over Los Angeles. 

LeBron James made easy work of the Dubs' putrid defense, scoring a game-high 23 points to go with 12 assists, while former Warrior JaVale McGee finished with 18 points and 16 rebounds. 

Here are three takeaways from the loss:

Defensive doldrums

Warriors Insider Monte Poole did the honors of providing Golden State's woeful defensive stats, so I'll spare you the trouble. Nonetheless, the Warriors continued their season-long defensive struggle, allowing the Lakers to use this game as a cardio exercise. 

Playing against a battered squad, the Lakers pounced early, shooting 69 percent in the first quarter, including five 3-pointers. LeBron James scored 19 first-half points, adding six rebounds as the Lakers scored 64 points in the paint. 

Kerr has lamented his team's defense for most of the season, but Wednesday's performance tapped into what frustrates him the most: a total lack of effort. Under the current circumstances, the Warriors' lack of depth will assure that they'll lose most nights, but that doesn't mean they have to go down without a fight.  

Rebounds anyone?

Coinciding with Golden State's defensive woes was its inability to attack the glass, getting outrebounded 51-33 on the night. By the end of the evening, no player even cracked double digits in the category. 

Entering Wednesday, the Warriors were near the bottom of the league in rebounding, averaging just over 40 boards per game. With a frontline depth chart that included JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard, Los Angeles had the size to overwhelm Golden State's small frontline. 

But rebounding is about desire and as the Warriors showed Wednesday, they had very little of it. 

[RELATED: Kerr explains why Warriors-Lakers rivalry doesn't exist]

D'Angelo Russell shines 

In what has become a trend in recent weeks, D'Angelo Russell had a solid offensive night Wednesday, scoring 21 points to go with eight assists. 

Entering Wednesday, he was averaging 26.3 points and 6.5 assists per game, while shooting 45.1 percent from the field. Offense has never been an issue for Russell, and with Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry out, he'll have full rein of the offense and should flourish. 

Moving forward, he'll need to put the same amount of effort on the defensive end for the Warriors to have a slight chance most nights. 

How Lakers are giving Warriors repeated reminders of size they lack

How Lakers are giving Warriors repeated reminders of size they lack

The best of Dwight Howard disappeared in 2012, and what remains of the three-time Defensive Player of the Year is a serviceable big man in the rotation of a Los Angeles Lakers team with championship aspirations.

That was enough Monday night to remind the Warriors during their 104-98 loss of an issue they must address if they expect to compete at the highest levels of the Western Conference.

They’ve got to get bigger and more bullish, particularly in the paint.

Which, at this point, makes it imperative that they find a roster spot for 6-foot-10, 240-pound Marquese Chriss.

With Howard bullying his way to 13 rebounds in 22 minutes and 7-foot teammate JaVale McGee snatching five boards in 17 minutes, Los Angeles rode a 48-38 advantage in paint points to send the Warriors out of Staples Center in defeat.

“It’s just really, really frustrating,” coach Steve Kerr told reporters in LA. “If we don’t get that cleaned up, we’re in huge trouble this year. We know that.”

Though the Warriors snagged only two fewer rebounds (48-46), it was evident for the second time in two games they had problems with the bumping and banging of the LA big men.

Through three preseason games, a pattern is developing. The Warriors have lost the rebounding battle in all three games, including by 11 in the preseason opener against LA and by one against the Minnesota Timberwolves, a notoriously poor rebounding team.

Some of this can be blamed on the absences of Willie Cauley-Stein (mid-foot sprain, out until November) and Kevon Looney (hamstring strain, out indefinitely). The season opener is nine days away, and they were projected to share the bulk of the team’s minutes at center.

For now, the load is being shared by 6-9, 270-pound Omari Spellman and Chriss, with 6-10, 245-pound Kavion Pippen playing scant minutes the last two games. Spellman, who started the preseason opener, has 17 rebounds in 51 minutes. Chriss, who started the last two games, has 28 rebounds in 65 minutes.

Rookie forward Eric Paschall, whose listed height of 6-foot-9 is an exaggeration, closed at center Monday night. He has only nine rebounds in 70 preseason minutes.

“You’ve got to defend without fouling, and you’ve got to rebound,” Kerr said. “If we do those things then you’re got a chance. Without it, we’re in big trouble.”

In addition to the rebounding deficit, the Warriors also are committing the kind of pushing-and-grabbing frustration fouls typical of teams operating at a size disadvantage. Paschall and Chriss each were whistled for five fouls while both played 26 minutes.

The result was the Lakers having a 39-23 advantage in free-throw attempts.

“Between the rebounding and the fouling, those were the areas we talked about the most,” Kerr said. “Especially over the last four or five days. Once we got a couple games under our belt, where you could really see it, that’s all we’ve talked about.

“That’s why this was a really disappointing game, especially in the first half.”

The Warriors are well aware that their lack of size presents their biggest physical challenge. But playing the Lakers four times this preseason is perfect for providing a constant reminder.

The lack of size is a real problem, and the length of the Lakers shines a harsh light on it. Anthony Davis, McGee and Howard totaled 32 rebounds in 53 minutes in the Oct. 5 opener, when Chriss had been on the roster for four days.

He now looks like the most skilled offensive big man on the roster.

[RELATED: Why John Oliver name-dropped Chriss in NBA-China monologue]

Chris has made smart passes, averaging 4.0 assists this preseason. He has shot 11-of-19 from the field, 8-of-8 from the line. He provides the vertical spacing expected of Cauley-Stein and some of the savvy play we’ve seen from Looney.

Most of all, Chriss is big, strong and springy, and he engages in the paint. He is easily the team’s most impressive big man and certainly is outplaying his non-guaranteed contract.

The Warriors know the problem, and the sight of Howard exposing it means it’s visible to all. It’s not going to go away unless they address it.

Lakers' Dwight Howard using Warriors' Draymond Green as his inspiration

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Lakers' Dwight Howard using Warriors' Draymond Green as his inspiration

Dwight Howard is in redemption mode this season, not only with the Lakers, but all of basketball. 

The former five-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year has turned into more of a joke than anything else in recent seasons, as he has looked like a shell of his former self. But now, he's using a Warriors player as inspiration before the 2019-20 regular season. 

And it's someone Howard used to have pretty strong feelings about. 

"I hated Draymond [Green]," Howard said to The Athletic's Shams Charania in a sit-down interview. "I'm like, 'this dude is an a--.' But I sat back this year and really watched everything he did, and I was really impressed."

Howard said he paid close attention to how Green lets the game come to him. The eight-time All-Star could notice Draymond's confidence on the court, and wants to emulate that this season. 

"Just all the little things that he did that might not show up on the stat sheet," Howard said. 

[RELATED: Source: Chriss, Warriors agree to non-guaranteed contract]

The Lakers signed Howard to a non-guaranteed contract in late August after former Kings and Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins tore his ACL this offseason. If Howard wants to be a key contributor in the Lakers' title chase, he will have to take a note out of Green's book and focus on the little things instead of thinking he's still the same scoring threat he once was. 

Only time will tell how inspired Dwight truly is by Draymond.