Warriors takeaways: What we learned in promising 134-123 win vs. Pelicans

Warriors takeaways: What we learned in promising 134-123 win vs. Pelicans


NEW ORLEANS -- Following Sunday's blowout loss in Oklahoma City, Warriors forward Draymond Green gave a damning critique of the reigning Western Conference champions.

Less than 24 hours later, his team responded, beating the Pelicans 134-123 to earn its first win of the season. On their way to doing so, the Warriors outscored, outrebounded and thoroughly embarrassed the young Pelicans.

Since training camp, Golden State has been in search of identity after losing much of its star core from last season. Now, after two blowout losses, the team seems to have finally found a rhythm after Monday's victory at Smoothie King Center.

Small-ball lineup

During their dynastic run, the Warriors always went small when their backs were against the wall. Now, even with a lesser roster, Golden State went back to that same well.

After two straight double-digit losses, Warriors coach Steve Kerr started Green at center alongside Stephen Curry, Jordan Poole, Glenn Robinson and D'Angelo Russell. The lineup flourished, outscoring New Orleans 10-3 through the first four minutes, and built a 72-55 halftime lead.

Curry scored 26 points on the night, adding 11 assists and a 30-foot bomb to help close out the first half. Green contributed a triple-double with 16 points, 10 assists and 17 rebounds, stabilizing an erratic offense.

The lineup change was on-brand for Golden State. During the Warriors' five-year run, Kerr frequently would turn to his "Death Lineup" with Green at center.

With both Kevon Looney and Willie Cauley-Stein currently sidelined with injuries, it's uncertain if the Warriors will stick with the small-ball lineup. But if Monday's performance was any indication, the strategy still works.

Role players deliver

Through two games, Golden State's young core had struggled. That trend changed in the Big Easy.

Damion Lee scored 23 points and added 11 rebounds in 28 minutes, helping the Warriors extend their lead to as much as 29 points in the second half.

Poole drained his first three shots, all of which were 3-pointers, and finished with 13 points. Big man Omari Spellman followed suit, finishing with eight points and eight rebounds, including an impressive tip-slam in the first half.

With the influx of youth, the Warriors will be forced to rely on their inexperienced core, meaning Poole, Spellman and Eric Paschall will need to consistently play at the level they did against the Pelicans. This was a positive step in that direction.

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Improved defensive effort

Golden State's defense had been atrocious, giving up 261 points over the first two games. That changed against New Orleans, as the Warriors held the Pelicans to just 38 percent shooting from the field through the first three quarters.

Curry finished with a team-high three steals, and Green grabbed 14 defensive boards. 

Throughout training camp, Kerr was trying to find a defensive flow with the departures of Kevin Durant, Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala. The strategies used in the first two games clearly didn't work, as the Warriors entered Monday with the league's worst defense. If they can match the effort they gave against the Pelicans, more wins will follow.

Warriors' Steve Kerr says trade rumors don't affect D'Angelo Russell

Warriors' Steve Kerr says trade rumors don't affect D'Angelo Russell

D'Angelo Russell is rapidly approaching a date some NBA observers have circled since the Warriors acquired him this summer.

Golden State can trade Russell as soon as Sunday, Dec. 15, and the 23-year-old has been the source of trade speculation during his time in the Bay Area. The Athletic's Jon Krawczynski reported Wednesday, citing sources that the Minnesota Timberwolves "remain interested in Russell" and that the guard "seems to be realistic in understanding that he may not be long for the Warriors once Steph Curry and Klay Thompson return to full health."

Russell is averaging a career-high 22.4 points per game this season to go with 6.1 assists and 3.1 rebounds, serving as the top offensive option in the absence of his All-Star teammates. He knew he wouldn't play much with Thompson this season as he recovers from a torn ACL, but Curry's broken hand threw a wrench into the Warriors' -- and thus Russell's -- prospects this season. Warriors coach Steve Kerr praised how Russell has handled the rumors surrounding him. 

"Money doesn't buy peace of mind," Kerr said Friday morning (H/T San Francisco Chronicle's Connor Letourneau). "It doesn't buy a sense of belonging, a sense of, 'Alright, this is my team.' If there's speculation that you're going to be traded all the time, I don't care how much money you make, I don't care who you are. That's tough. That's no fun to deal with, and this season has been nowhere close to what D'Angelo thought it would be when he first signed with us.

"There's no Steph. We're struggling to win games. He's had his own injuries, and we're throwing all kinds of different lineups out there based on the other injuries we've faced." 

Russell has played in just 15 of the Warriors' 27 games this season, playing on a team that looks far more like the Los Angeles Lakers of his first two seasons than the playoff-contending Brooklyn Nets a year ago -- let alone the reigning Western Conference champion Warriors. 

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Kerr, who entered this season with the highest winning percentage in NBA history (.785), is as aware of Golden State's dramatically different reality as anyone. He said it has only brought out the best in Russell. 

"So given all that, he's played really well, and he's been a great teammate and he's doing everything he needs to do to solidify his position here," Kerr continued. "But this is the NBA here, and we never know what's coming, what's happening. So, it's a difficult position to be in in general, but for him in particular it's strange set of circumstances and he's handling it really well." 

Whether or not the Warriors trade Russell, it's clear Kerr holds him in high regard.

Watch Warriors' Ky Bowman dominate for Santa Cruz in G League debut

Watch Warriors' Ky Bowman dominate for Santa Cruz in G League debut

Warriors two-way guard Ky Bowman made his G League debut Friday night in Santa Cruz.

He dominated the Agua Caliente Clippers of Ontario. 

The Boston College product could have scored 40 points if he really wanted to, but he picked his spots and made sure his teammates were getting good looks.

After shootaround in Utah on Friday, Warriors coach Steve Kerr was asked what Bowman can work on while he's with the Sea Dubs.

"He's got a really aggressive mindset -- which I like -- but there are still circumstances and situations where he needs to think more pass," Kerr said. "And more strategic, rather than just score, score, score."

Bowman clearly listened to the eight-time NBA champion.

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Also, "Sky Bowman" was on full display.

The 22-year-old will be back in action Sunday afternoon as Santa Cruz faces the Northern Arizona Suns. Watch the game at 2:00 p.m. on NBC Sports Bay Area.

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