The Warriors knew the job was tough when they were forced to deploy a depleted roster, but they had little idea of the demolition awaiting them Thursday night in Sacramento.
After 48 minutes chasing the Kings over Golden 1 Center and never really catching them, the Warriors took a 141-119 loss with them on the late-night bus back to the Bay Area.
Andrew Wiggins scored 26 points to lead the Golden State offense, with four teammates reaching double figures, but defense was the primary component leading to defeat.
Here are three takeaways from a game that dropped the Warriors (22-23) under .500 for the first time since New Year’s Day:
No Draymond, no defense
It’s not that Draymond Green, sidelined due to illness, would have personally locked up Kings guards De’Aaron Fox (44 points) and Tyrese Haliburton (21). But it’s inconceivable that the Warriors would have been so atrocious on defense if he were on the court.
Kelly Oubre Jr., usually tasked with dealing with the most dangerous opposing guard, did not bring his usually stellar defensive game. At all. Nor did anyone else.
The result was Sacramento running rings around the Warriors, who often didn’t seem to realize the strengths of their opponents. Haliburton, shooting 42.1 percent beyond the arc, was allowed way too much space. Fox used his stunning quickness to get into the paint for floaters and shots at the rim.
The Kings shot 60.2 percent from the field and 50 percent from deep against a Golden State team ranked sixth in defensive rating. That status, however, reflects Green’s effect on that end. He was dearly missed.
Wiggins bounces back
Filling the Stephen Curry scoring void has been a challenge every game, as expected, but Wiggins embraced the role for the second time in four games.
He started exceedingly well, scoring 15 points on 5-of-6 shooting in the first quarter, but tailed off over the course of the evening and still led the team in scoring with 10-of-18 shooting, including 3-of-5 from distance.
Following his 40-point performance – his highest-scoring night as a Warrior – last week in Memphis, Wiggins hit a two-game dip during which he shot 10-of-29 from the field before recovering to torch the Kings in Sacramento.
As the team’s second-leading scorer, it’s incumbent upon Wiggins to deliver the goods in the absence of Curry, who will miss at least two more games.
Big man, small production
With the Warriors reinserting James Wiseman into the starting lineup as a commitment to his development, it’s a chance for the rookie to gain some momentum along with the increased playing time.
There was zero evidence of such in this game.
Against the worst defense in the NBA, Wiseman scored six points on 3-of-8 shooting, adding eight rebounds with five turnovers. His first half was nightmarish: no points, two fouls, four turnovers. A layup with 5:50 remaining in the third quarter put Wiseman in the scoring column.
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No less disturbing for the Warriors was the sight of Wiseman, often a beat late on offense or caught flatfooted on defense, being outworked by Kings big man Richaun Holmes. Holmes gave his team 25 points and 11 rebounds.
In a battle the Warriors needed to at least be competitive to have a reasonably good chance to stay with Sacramento, Wiseman was blown out.