Jonathan Kuminga made history on Saturday night, but he’ll never stop trying to improve.
The Warriors rookie started his first NBA playoff contest against the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals, helping Golden State complete a 142-112 blowout victory at Chase Center to take a 2-1 series lead.
Kuminga’s start was a result of circumstance after Gary Payton II broke his elbow in Game 2, with Warriors coach Steve Kerr telling reporters after the game he believed the 19-year-old was up to the challenge of replacing Payton’s athleticism around the rim.
Kuminga’s first postseason start was historic as he became the youngest NBA player to start a playoff game since 1971 at 19 years, 213 days old.
He continued to make history during the game, too, dropping 18 points on the Grizzlies -- the most by a teenager in the playoffs since Carmelo Anthony in 2004. Kuminga is one of only four teens to score 18 or more points in a postseason matchup.
Still, Kuminga knows there’s still room to improve and seemed to tweet an indirect message to himself after the game.
The young forward tied the game-high of four turnovers on Saturday, three of which came early, but it was a first quarter filled with miscues for the Warriors as a whole. Draymond Green had the other set of four out of 17 total turnovers by Golden State, 14 of which came during the game’s first half.
Kuminga was one of the team’s top shooters behind, well, its three best shooters, with his 18 points putting him after Steph Curry (30), Jordan Poole (27) and Klay Thompson (21).
And it wasn’t the first time he has made an impact in a playoff game. In Game 4 of Golden State’s opening-round playoff series against the Denver Nuggets, Kuminga provided a much-needed spark in 11 minutes off the bench in what was his first taste of significant playoff action.
On Sunday, Kerr said he “was really happy with” Kuminga and applauded him for doing “a lot of good stuff.” But like his young player, Kerr noticed there are areas where the 19-year-old can continue to improve.
“His defense was good, he ran the floor, attacked, got a couple easy buckets for us,” Kerr said. “The improvement has to come from the turnovers. He had the three turnovers in the first quarter. Just overly aggressive and got a little bit out of control.
“But he’s a rookie and he’s constantly learning and growing. But he did a really good job.”
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Kuminga responded to the call when Payton went down, and after the game, Curry said the inconsistency in lineups this postseason thanks to injuries and various matchups has come as somewhat of a surprise to the entire team.
With that being said, he reminded reporters after the game that Kumings should be ready to see significant minutes again.
“The approach to how we play is all the same … How everybody approaches that, whether you start or whether you come off the bench, that shouldn’t matter,” Curry said. “So for [Kuminga], just stay confident and know he’s going to get another opportunity.”
With Game 4 set for Monday at Chase Center, Kuminga could get his opportunity sooner rather than later.