Warriors' poor rebounding becoming a pattern, leads to another defeat

Warriors' poor rebounding becoming a pattern, leads to another defeat

Nine games into the season, the young Warriors are starting to turn proclivities into patterns. One of the most damaging, and most easily corrected, habits cost them a game Friday night.

They were, for the third time this season, clobbered on the glass.

They lost all three games, the first two of them decisively. The third one, against the Minnesota Timberwolves, simply got away.

Outrebounded 59-49 by the Timberwolves, who rank 21st in the NBA in that category, the Warriors left Target Center brooding over a 125-119 overtime loss that ought to stick in their collective gut until they take the floor Saturday night in Oklahoma City.

And, honestly, should be in the back of their minds as they approach every game this season.

The Warriors were as competitive as they were – including having a four-point lead with 29 seconds remaining in regulation – mostly because D’Angelo Russell, returning after a three-game absence, was sensational on offense, scoring a career-high 52 points, including 21 of the 33 points the team scored in the fourth quarter and OT.

Russell, however, might have provided the best illustration of the Warriors’ rebounding sins.

About 25 seconds after burying a 3-pointer that pulled the Warriors into a 116-116 tie with 3:03 remaining in OT, Russell was standing flat-footed as a Karl-Anthony Towns jumper bounced off the rim. As D-Lo was standing and staring, Timberwolves guard Josh Okogie sprinted around him and tipped the ball in for the bucket.

In a game with 20 lead changes and 13 ties, the Warriors were done. The tip-in initiated a 9-3 run that kept Minnesota in front until the final horn.

“We had control of the game and we just let it slip away,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr told reporters in Minneapolis.

“It’s unfortunate. Our guys played really hard, played well enough to win. But give Minnesota credit. They made big plays down the stretch. They got some offensive boards that we’d like to . . . see better box-outs."

All D-Lo could do after seeing Okogie’s tip-in was grab his head with both hands. He’s veteran enough to know he was at fault. His fundamentals did not exist, and he had been outhustled.

To be fair, Russell wasn’t the only Warrior in the paint as the shot went up. Indeed, all five Warriors were in the paint, and the other four advanced toward the rim from other directions. And, still, Okogie – the only Minnesota player inside the 3-point arc – got the tip-in.

That was typical on a night when the Timberwolves snagged 20 offensive rebounds, which led directly to 35-13 thumping on second-chance points.

The first time the Warriors were beaten so soundly on the glass came on Oct. 27 at OKC, when the Thunder rode a 50-39 advantage to a 28-point win that left the Warriors embarrassed. The second time came on Nov. 1 at Chase Center, where they were outrebounded 52-39 by the Spurs. There’s your pattern.

In the other six games, the Warriors were either competitive or posted a rebounding edge. In their two wins, against the Pelicans and Trail Blazers, the Warriors combined for a plus-23 on the glass.

Their best rebounding game came right after being humiliated by the Thunder. They went to New Orleans the very next night and pulled a season-high 61, to 41 for the Pelicans.

It so happens that this also was the first of a back-to-back road set. If the Warriors attack the glass with similarly smarts and aggression, against a team that punished them two weeks ago, they can claim a measure of revenge.

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The great Pat Riley, when he was head coach of the Showtime Lakers, had a simple four-word saying that holds true 30 years later: No rebounds, no rings.

In the case of the young Warriors crawling their way through this season, the phrase needs only slight alteration.

No rebounds, no victory.

Warriors’ still-mounting injuries a big blow to young players’ development

Warriors’ still-mounting injuries a big blow to young players’ development

SAN FRANCISCO -- In the waning moments of the Warriors' latest loss Friday night, their bench resembled the front row of a fashion show more than a functioning NBA roster.

Toward the end of the bench, All-Star guard Stephen Curry sat in a black suit jacket, covering a massive cast protecting his broken left hand. To Curry's left, center Kevon Looney sat in a gray suit, his immediate future in peril as he continues to seek answers about an injured hamstring.

That type of visual has become commonplace over the last month.

Over that stretch, 11 Warriors players have been sidelined with injuries, crippling a roster that seemed armed with an outside shot of making the playoffs on opening night just three weeks ago.

The latest blow came Saturday morning, when an MRI confirmed that D'Angelo Russell had suffered a sprained thumb, sidelining him for at least two weeks. Over his previous six games, the guard had averaged 29.7 points on 48 percent shooting from the field, including a 52-point, nine-rebound performance against Minnesota, so his absence will be felt.

That's because the Warriors are in roster transition, marked by their youthful core.

When Jordan Poole and Eric Paschall were drafted in June, the expectation was that the rookies would be brought along slowly, learning behind Golden State's battered All-Star cast. The myriad injuries changed that, though, forcing both into more minutes than initially anticipated.

While Paschall has flourished in that spot (15.6 points and 4.6 rebounds in 30.8 minutes per game), Poole has struggled. Since Curry's injury in the fourth game of the season, Poole has shot 29 percent from the field, and he has hit just five of his last 28 shots over his last two contests.

The trickle-down effect started on the eve of training camp, when Warriors general manager Bob Myers announced that center Willie Cauley-Stein would miss most of October with a foot strain. Two days later, rookie Alen Smailagic rolled his ankle and Looney strained his hamstring in the same controlled scrimmage.

Last month, Curry broke his hand, sidelining the guard until at least February. Two nights later, forward Draymond Green tore a ligament in his left index finger. On Monday, two-way guard Damion Lee fractured his hand.

Amid all those injuries, Warriors coach Steve Kerr trotted out his ninth starting lineup of the season Friday, with two-way guard Ky Bowman at the point. For a moment, it worked.

Midway through the third quarter, Bowman intercepted a pass, ran cross court and dunked over Grant Williams, cutting the Celtics' lead to three. Two minutes later, Alec Burk stripped Boston guard Brandon Wanamaker, setting up a fast-break layup that gave Golden State a brief 82-80 lead before the Celtics rallied and held on in the fourth quarter.

The Warriors' current reality is much different than their immediate past. After winning 78 percent of their games over five years, they now find themselves with a roster that lost Kevin Durant to free agency, while Curry and Klay Thompson's rehabs are expected to last until at least February. Their 2-11 record is the NBA's worst.

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Minutes after the final buzzer Friday, there were reminders of potential hopes lost. Curry's hand swelled out of his cast as he walked near a team official. In the locker room, Paschall sported an ice pack on his right hand, and Poole reconciled an ankle injury that he said wouldn't affect him.

As the Warriors packed for another road trip, potentially with just eight healthy bodies for the foreseeable future, another reminder that the team's development is coming at a hefty price was evident.

Warriors' D'Angelo Russell out at least two weeks with right thumb sprain


Warriors' D'Angelo Russell out at least two weeks with right thumb sprain

Add another one to the list.

After leaving Friday night’s loss to the Celtics with a thumb injury, an MRI has confirmed a right thumb sprain for All-Star guard D'Angelo Russell.

Russell will not travel with the team on the upcoming four-game road trip and will be re-evaluated in two weeks.

Golden State’s already lengthy injury report adds another name, as the team now stands with just nine healthy players as the team embarks for New Orleans on Saturday to kick off the trip.