The Warriors on Wednesday night got their first -- and what they hope will be last -- look at themselves without Stephen Curry, and the picture that emerged was predictably hideous.
With their halting efforts at defense consistently exploited and their offense failing to materialize, the Warriors suffered through a 126-93 preseason loss to a Lakers team that showed not a moment of mercy at Staples Center.
Curry is healthy but was given the night off, joining a long list of injured Warriors on the sideline. Though he may have made a difference, the Lakers seemed to be on a mission to destroy.
Here are three quick takeaways from a game for which the video review will be unkind to the Warriors:
One for Russell’s trash bin
Curry’s absence gave D'Angelo Russell his first chance to orchestrate the action, and it did not go well. Indeed, it often looked like that bad (17-65) Lakers team D-Lo joined as a rookie in 2015.
And Russell definitely contributed to the defensive mess with numerous blown assignments, late switches and a couple plays when he simply failed to engage.
To make matters worse, Russell didn’t offset things with his offense. Though he scored a team-high 23 points on 8-of-17 shooting (3-of-8 from beyond the arc), he also had more turnovers than assists (four to three) and never seemed to generate any offensive rhythm for the team.
Perhaps this is all part of the development process. He has spent plenty of time working with Curry, during the offseason and thus far this preseason. The two often display a measure of comfort when playing off each other.
With Curry out, Russell appeared to be trapped by a measure of uncertainty, thinking rather than playing. That’s not unusual when there are such unfamiliar surroundings.
Defense exposed again
As the Lakers were running layup drills, 3-point shooting exhibitions and baseline-to-baseline fastbreaks, the Warriors did a little bit of reaching and a lot of watching.
Two nights after coach Steve Kerr urged improvement on defense, the Warriors allowed LA to roll up 104 points in the first three quarters -- before LeBron James and Anthony Davis retired in the fourth -- while shooting 61.5 percent (40-of-65) from the field, including a staggering 60.9 percent (14-of-23) from deep.
LeBron James, now cast as a point guard, did whatever he pleased, something that can happen against even the strongest opposition. He produced 18 points (6-of-9 from the field), 11 assists and four rebounds in 25 minutes.
The Warriors did complete Kerr’s other primary request, which was to reduce the number of fouls. They committed only 16 through the first three quarters -- the “competitive” portion of the game -- after being blown for 28 on Monday night.
The Warriors are going to be able to score, but their fate and placement will be dictated by defense. It is their greatest challenge, and there was no sign of it on this night.
Chriss has to make the roster
As the front office convenes in the coming days to make decisions about the roster, the Marquese Chriss debate will be brief and one-sided.
Has Chriss earned a spot on the roster? Yes.
His presence is required partly out of sheer need, as he is the only healthy “center” on the team. Kevon Looney (hamstring strain) is questionable for opening night. Willie Cauley-Stein (mid-foot sprain) is not expected back until November. Omari Spellman, a forward masquerading as a center, tweaked his back Monday and was sidelined Wednesday.
Chriss, at 6-foot-10, 240 pounds, also happens to be playing well. In 25 minutes, he totaled eight points and four rebounds. Though he splashed a triple in the first quarter, this was the least impressive of his four games this preseason.
The big man has his ponderous moments when he seems to lose focus, but he has done some of everything, and done most of it well.
This wasn’t his best game as a Warrior, but it was enough to prove he belongs.