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.
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.
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.