SAN FRANCISCO – The Warriors returned to the floor after a nine-month absence on Saturday and spent the bulk of the game a bit sharper than could reasonably be expected.
Playing with the intensity they’re going to need to consistently compete in the regular season, they managed a 107-105 preseason victory over the Denver Nuggets inside a Chase Center that was empty and quiet, aside from squeaking sneakers and manufactured noise.
All five starters – Stephen Curry, Kelly Oubre Jr., Andrew Wiggins, Eric Paschall and Kevon Looney played between 19 and 23 minutes, as anticipated. They mostly held their own, while the bench shined.
Here are three takeaways from the first of three preseason games:
Defense brings necessary energy
Coach Steve Kerr announced at the start of training camp that defense would be the priority as the team prepared for the regular season. It showed.
Despite being without the sidelined Draymond Green and James Wiseman, both of whom are expected to be central figures on defense, the Warriors played with the level of relentlessness required to have at succeeding when the games count.
They were relatively short – only 6-foot-10 Alen Smailagic is taller than 6-foot-9 – but their aggression and lengthy wingspans seemed to unnerve the Nuggets. The engagement was consistent and mostly effective, regardless who was on the floor.
Denver’s starters, aside from 7-foot center Nikola Jokic, were limited to 11-of-36 shooting overall, including 4-of-12 from distance. Credit goes mostly to the wings, particularly Kent Bazemore and Oubre.
Bazemore and bench come to play
Among the primary areas of concern is the bench. Can it compete in the paint? Can it defend decently? Can it score enough to hold leads?
One sure thing as that Bazemore, best known early in his career as the hyperactive dude on the end of the Golden State bench, will inject enough energy into the group to give all those aspirations a chance.
Bazemore played 18 minutes and seemed determined to seize the Sixth Man role. He delivered a team-high 13 points and grabbed five rebounds while also harassing Denver’s wings. Moreover, generally ran around as if his hair was on fire.
His energy seemed to impact his teammates. Jordan Poole exuded confidence while scoring 10 points and shooting 4-of-4 from the field. Backup point guard Brad Wanamaker was solid, with eight points, two assists, one steal and one block in 16 minutes.
Damion Lee and Mychal Mulder combined for 22 points, mostly in the late going, while shooting 5-of-6 from distance.
Upon first look, it appears Wanamaker and Bazemore have a chance to a be a nice reserve combo, the former steady and efficient, the other causing havoc on defense and turbocharging the offense.
Looney, Paschall pass first test
Looney, limited to 20 games last season, made it through 18 minutes without any immediate iol affects. He was typically sound on defense – and Jokic is a load – while totaling eight points, six rebounds and three assists.
With Wiseman unlikely to play in the preseason, it’s crucial to the cause that Looney is able to hold up at center.
Paschall started at power forward for Green and played unexceptional defense while being highly productive on offense. Putting in a team-high 23 minutes, he scored eight points, snagged a team-high seven rebounds and added three assists.
Most notably, looked capable of running the offense. He’ll likely get chances to do that in the regular season.