In his ongoing quest to discover a unit that won’t make a habit of squandering leads built off the presence and prowess of Stephen Curry, Warriors coach Steve Kerr found one worth further exploring.
There was no sign of this latest experiment Monday night in New Orleans. Rotations were irrelevant with four starters sitting while the Warriors invited 48 minutes of torture in a 128-83 loss to the Pelicans.
No, this was something Kerr tried Sunday night in Houston.
Watching the second unit give up a 13-0 run to the Rockets in the first three minutes of the second quarter -- turning a 12-point Warriors lead into a one-point Houston lead -- Kerr knew he had to try something different for the non-Curry minutes to open the fourth quarter.
He turned to Draymond Green, for whom the vast majority of minutes traditionally come with Curry on the floor.
“We didn’t execute on offense, and the defense suffered as a result,” Kerr said of the second-quarter meltdown. “We were turning the ball over quite a bit and getting bad shots. Some of those just felt like, we call them shot turnovers, when you take a bad shot and all of a sudden you’re compromised in transition and the other team is coming downhill at you.
“The second half was better. We changed the rotation up a little bit and put Draymond with the second unit to start the fourth quarter, which settled the group down a little bit.”
The experiment resulted in a net zero, and the Warriors are willing to live with that. The three-point lead they took into the fourth quarter (97-94) remained intact (104-101) until Draymond was replaced by Andrew Wiggins with 7:51 remaining in the game.
Curry replaced Jordan Poole 24 seconds later and remained in the game as the Warriors outscored Houston 23-19 over the final 7:27 to scratch out their first road victory this season.
The biggest difference between the first three minutes of the second quarter and four of the fourth was Golden State’s ball security -- three turnovers in the second, one in the fourth -- and its defense. Houston shot 4-of-4 from the field, plus 4-of-4 from the line, in the second but managed only 3-of-11 with no free throws in the first four minutes of the fourth.
The Warriors opened the second quarter with Donte DiVincenzo, Anthony Lamb, Jonathan Kuminga, Kevon Looney and Poole. They lost the quarter, 37-21, as Houston shot 60 percent from the field.
In the fourth, the Warriors stayed with Poole and DiVincenzo but replaced Lamb, Kuminga and Looney with Moses Moody, JaMychal Green and Draymond. They won the quarter, 30-26, as Houston shot 34.6 percent from the field.
Inserting Draymond into this particular second unit gives the Warriors a third ball handler and playmaker, while allowing both Poole and DiVincenzo to spend time off the ball. JaMychal Green can find a corner and drift into the paint. Moody can do the same. It’s a good cutting squad, and Draymond at his best excels in finding smart cutters.
Kerr is hoping to get three things from the second unit: Fewer turnovers on offense, fewer fouls and much better defense. In short, intellect and stability. This unit offers that potential. At this rate, any minutes from Andre Iguodala would be a bonus.
“Hopefully,” Kerr said of the experiment, “we can take this and try to get a little momentum.”
As the season goes on, other starters, certainly Klay Thompson and Andrew Wiggins, will continue to blend into some of the second units. The point of this is to find a way for the team to be effective when Curry is on the bench.
On the face of it, this feels like it could be a step in the right direction.