Warriors takeaways: What we learned in 106-91 road loss vs. Hornets

Warriors takeaways: What we learned in 106-91 road loss vs. Hornets


The Warriors on Wednesday night looked as healthy as they have since opening night -- until they took ill in the third quarter.

Down four at the half and briefly taking a two-point lead three minutes into the third quarter, they were outscored 23-11 over the final nine minutes of the quarter and never recovered in a 106-91 loss to the Hornets at Spectrum Center in Charlotte.

The return of D’Angelo Russell gave the Warriors 11 available players for the first time since mid-November. The new energy seemed to provide a boost, but they were unable to maintain the momentum created at several points of the game.

The Warriors lost for the 13th time in 15 games, dropping to an NBA-worst 4-19 record.

Here are three takeaways from a second consecutive loss to a struggling opponent:

The return of D-Lo

Insofar as Russell missed nine games with a sprained left thumb, which happened to be on his shooting hand, it was difficult to project how effective he might be in his return.

It didn’t take long for him to prove that as a scorer, which is his primary role with his roster, he was highly effective.

Wearing a taped bandage on his thumb, Russell totaled 18 points on 7-of-13 shooting from the field, including 3-of-7 from beyond the arc. After a fairly pedestrian opening quarter, he was sensational after entering for the final 6:25 of the second frame, scoring 13 points on 5-of-5 shooting, including 2-of-2 from deep.

Though there were several occasions when Russell seemed to be affected by his thumb -- inspecting it, flexing it -- it did not prevent him from putting the ball through the hoop.

The Warriors have needed someone to generate offense, and Russell immediately looks ready to slide back into that role.

No D leads to parade of easy threes

The Warriors entered Wednesday's game with the fifth-worst 3-point defense -- opponents were shooting 42.7 percent from deep -- in the league. They might have moved a bit closer to absolute worst with this performance.

Charlotte, which ranked 11th in 3-point shooting (36.1 percent), surely made a leap toward the top.

With 6-foot-1 guard Devonte’ Graham leading the way, the Hornets shot 44.7 percent (21-of-47) from beyond the arc. Graham was 10-of-16 from deep in pouring in a game-high and season-high 33 points.

What had to be particularly painful was that the Warriors undoubtedly knew what to expect from the Hornets and certainly from Graham. He has made more 3-pointers than everyone except NBA scoring leader James Harden.

Yet Graham feasted, mostly off open looks as the Warriors were slow to recover and inconsistent with their switching. His teammates weren’t far behind.

[RELATED: From Saginaw to NBA star: Draymond reflects on the journey]

Gifts three weeks before Christmas

Even as they were losing games earlier this season, the Warriors were able to keep their turnovers down. That trend is reversing at the speed of light.

After committing 25 turnovers (while recording 17 assists) in a loss to the Hawks in Atlanta on Monday, the Warriors came out Wednesday and spread 17 gifts to the Hornets while ringing up only 16 dimes. The desired numbers are two assists for each turnover.

Though 17 turnovers are not an outrageous amount, it’s devastating when so many of them are live-ball giveaways that trigger fast breaks the other way. Charlotte scored 23 points off turnovers.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr wishes 49ers well in Super Bowl 54 vs. Chiefs

Warriors coach Steve Kerr wishes 49ers well in Super Bowl 54 vs. Chiefs

Draymond Green might not be rooting for the 49ers in Super Bowl LIV, but one other prominent member of the Warriors’ organization will be.

Coach Steve Kerr delivered a message via social media on Friday, wishing the Niners well as they prepare to take on the Kansas City Chiefs at Hard Rock Stadium on Feb. 2.

"I just wanna say good luck to the 49ers," Kerr said. "Everybody's pulling for you guys, let's go."

[RELATED: How Dubs benefit from Cauley-Stein trade to Mavericks]

Draymond said after shootaround on Friday that he’ll be rooting for the Chiefs, whose roster features his close friend, defensive end Frank Clark.

Both Kerr and Green happen to know a thing or two about winning championships, but only one of them will be happy with the result from Miami.

How Warriors gain flexibility in Willie Cauley-Stein trade to Mavs

How Warriors gain flexibility in Willie Cauley-Stein trade to Mavs

SAN FRANCISCO -- Willie Cauley-Stein walked out of shootaround, down a long corridor that leads to the Warriors' locker room in Chase Center late Friday morning in preparation for a game scheduled hours later against the Indiana Pacers. The trek marked the big man's last as a member of Golden State.

By Saturday morning, Cauley-Stein officially was traded to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for the Utah Jazz's second-round draft pick in 2020, ending his short tenure in the Bay Area. Along the way, the Warriors set themselves up for future flexibility. 

In the immediate aftermath, the Warriors shed Cauley-Stein's current $2.17 million salary and his $2.8 million player option for the 2020-21 season, while freeing up an open roster spot for this season and beyond. From a financial perspective, it sank Golden State $2.57 million below the hard cap, according to ESPN's Bobby Marks. Additionally, the Warriors have enough salary space to convert the two-way deals of either Ky Bowman or Marquese Chriss. 

Six months ago, Cauley-Stein came to Warriors in search of career revitalization. After four years in Sacramento, he demanded that the Kings rescind his qualifying offer to make him a free agent last summer. After garnering more lucrative offers from other teams, he chose to sign a one-year contract with Golden State, which included the player option. With a new contract, the center hoped to keep the Warriors' postseason streak alive while earning a payday next summer. 

However, those wishes didn't come to fruition. A week before training camp, Cauley-Stein sprained his foot, causing the center to miss the first month of the season. His injury, coupled with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevon Looney missing significant time, led to a lost season for the big man.

Nonetheless, Cauley-Stein expressed a desire to stay with the Warriors long term, citing his relationship with coach Steve Kerr. 

"He wants to build a relationship with you," Cauley-Stein told NBC Sports Bay Area last month. "I think, in the past I hadn't had a relationship with my coach. [Former Kings coach Dave] Joerger, me and him had a pretty good rapport, pretty good, like cordial, but we never had like in-depth conversations about life and stuff like that, and the first couple of conversations I had with coach Kerr was real-life stuff and that hit home with me like, 'Damn, he really tried to get to know me.' "

[RELATED: Draymond not rooting for 49ers]

Unfortunately for Cauley-Stein, he won't get to continue that relationship with Kerr.

Now, with Dallas in need of a center with the loss of Dwight Powell, his hope to find a similar relationship with Rick Carlisle will immediately start in a Mavericks uniform.