Warriors have discovered their anti-tank squad in new starting lineup

Warriors have discovered their anti-tank squad in new starting lineup

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Warriors deployed their ninth lineup of the season Friday night, but if they are as serious about tanking the season as some outside speculation suggests, they are going to have to try a 10th or 11th or 12th.

Tankers, you see, don’t deliberately or consistently send out their best lineups.

Draymond Green and Eric Paschall were the starting forwards for the first time this season, and even in a 105-100 loss to the rampaging Celtics, performed well enough – as did the team around them – to provide reason to believe the Warriors will find a few more wins if Steve Kerr makes a habit of this.

“We just wanted to take a different look,” Kerr said. “We had lost five games in a row, and we wanted to just to see Eric and Draymond play together. We like the physicality that it brought to our defense, so we had a more physical front line with both Eric and Draymond and Willie [Cauley-Stein].

“We gave up a little something in spacing, but we pick up something defensively.”

In addition to starting the Green-Paschall duo at forward, Glenn Robinson III -- who started the first 11 games at small forward -- was moved to the backcourt alongside point guard D’Angelo Russell, with Cauley-Stein at center.

That group stunned the Celtics by racing out to leads of 10 (18-8) six minutes into the game and 15 (25-10) a little more than two minutes later. The groundwork was laid for perhaps the Warriors’ best first quarter of the season, which ended with a 32-23 lead.

The numbers, across the board, were more than respectable: 50 percent shooting from the field, 33.3 percent from deep; 16-14 rebounding edge; eight assists, one turnover; holding Boston to 30.4 percent shooting, 25 percent from beyond the arc.

“Our defense was better,” Green said. “I think that was our best defensive effort of the season. We let go of the rope a little bit in the second quarter, which is how they got back into the game. But it all starts on the defensive end, and we were better tonight.”

The Celtics fought back because, well, they are the best team in the Eastern Conference and entered Chase Center with a nine-game win streak. Despite falling behind by as much as seven in the third quarter, the Warriors didn’t so much as fold late as they were outplayed by a more talented team, with more accomplished veterans.

“I told you guys that the young players are going go play their butts off,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “The other thing is that you can tell the way that Draymond Green is leading, he’s so engaged in all these young guys. He’s leading all the way through and competing and kind of leading the charge.

“There’s a lot of character, competitive character (among the Warriors), which has been proved over a long period of time, and it’s being instilled into all of the new and younger guys.”

Green spent considerable time running the offense and finished with 11 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and two steals. Paschall submitted 16 points and eight rebounds. Their early tenacity, particularly in the paint, was contagious. Centers Marquese Chriss, Omari Spellman and Cauley-Stein combined for 22 points, 18 rebounds and two blocks.

“It just brought a sense of urgency and toughness from the jump, and that’s what the whole plan was, to just come out super aggressive,” Cauley-Stein said of the new lineup. “Draymond and Eric are two of our most aggressive players, so it worked.”

The second quarter was awful, the Warriors losing it by 10 mostly because they had as many turnovers (six) as assists. Russell -- who left in the third quarter with a sprained right thumb -- was particularly bad with the ball, turning it over four times in seven second-quarter minutes.

[RELATED: D-Lo to undergo MRI on sprained right thumb Saturday]

Though the Warriors lost, it was to the team that over the past three weeks is playing better than any in the NBA. In a season of lessons, the one to take from this game is that there is every reason to believe they can be considerably better than they have been.

In the process of losing, the Warriors found a lineup that, if it stays healthy and intact long enough, has enough to counter allegations of tanking. Lineup No. 9 is their best, surely good enough to win games they otherwise would lose.

Warriors' Steve Kerr says trade rumors don't affect D'Angelo Russell

Warriors' Steve Kerr says trade rumors don't affect D'Angelo Russell

D'Angelo Russell is rapidly approaching a date some NBA observers have circled since the Warriors acquired him this summer.

Golden State can trade Russell as soon as Sunday, Dec. 15, and the 23-year-old has been the source of trade speculation during his time in the Bay Area. The Athletic's Jon Krawczynski reported Wednesday, citing sources that the Minnesota Timberwolves "remain interested in Russell" and that the guard "seems to be realistic in understanding that he may not be long for the Warriors once Steph Curry and Klay Thompson return to full health."

Russell is averaging a career-high 22.4 points per game this season to go with 6.1 assists and 3.1 rebounds, serving as the top offensive option in the absence of his All-Star teammates. He knew he wouldn't play much with Thompson this season as he recovers from a torn ACL, but Curry's broken hand threw a wrench into the Warriors' -- and thus Russell's -- prospects this season. Warriors coach Steve Kerr praised how Russell has handled the rumors surrounding him. 

"Money doesn't buy peace of mind," Kerr said Friday morning (H/T San Francisco Chronicle's Connor Letourneau). "It doesn't buy a sense of belonging, a sense of, 'Alright, this is my team.' If there's speculation that you're going to be traded all the time, I don't care how much money you make, I don't care who you are. That's tough. That's no fun to deal with, and this season has been nowhere close to what D'Angelo thought it would be when he first signed with us.

"There's no Steph. We're struggling to win games. He's had his own injuries, and we're throwing all kinds of different lineups out there based on the other injuries we've faced." 

Russell has played in just 15 of the Warriors' 27 games this season, playing on a team that looks far more like the Los Angeles Lakers of his first two seasons than the playoff-contending Brooklyn Nets a year ago -- let alone the reigning Western Conference champion Warriors. 

[RELATED: How Warriors' Chriss earning chance to start at center]

Kerr, who entered this season with the highest winning percentage in NBA history (.785), is as aware of Golden State's dramatically different reality as anyone. He said it has only brought out the best in Russell. 

"So given all that, he's played really well, and he's been a great teammate and he's doing everything he needs to do to solidify his position here," Kerr continued. "But this is the NBA here, and we never know what's coming, what's happening. So, it's a difficult position to be in in general, but for him in particular it's strange set of circumstances and he's handling it really well." 

Whether or not the Warriors trade Russell, it's clear Kerr holds him in high regard.

Watch Warriors' Ky Bowman dominate for Santa Cruz in G League debut

Watch Warriors' Ky Bowman dominate for Santa Cruz in G League debut

Warriors two-way guard Ky Bowman made his G League debut Friday night in Santa Cruz.

He dominated the Agua Caliente Clippers of Ontario. 

The Boston College product could have scored 40 points if he really wanted to, but he picked his spots and made sure his teammates were getting good looks.

After shootaround in Utah on Friday, Warriors coach Steve Kerr was asked what Bowman can work on while he's with the Sea Dubs.

"He's got a really aggressive mindset -- which I like -- but there are still circumstances and situations where he needs to think more pass," Kerr said. "And more strategic, rather than just score, score, score."

Bowman clearly listened to the eight-time NBA champion.

[RELATEDWhy Dubs might be very active before, after trade deadline]

Also, "Sky Bowman" was on full display.

The 22-year-old will be back in action Sunday afternoon as Santa Cruz faces the Northern Arizona Suns. Watch the game at 2:00 p.m. on NBC Sports Bay Area.

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