Warriors escape Oklahoma City with win on Steph Curry floater: 5 observations

OKLAHOMA CITY — Here are five observations from the Golden State Warriors’ 141-139 win Friday night over the Oklahoma City Thunder, an In-Season Tournament debut game that included a wild finish and pushed the Warriors to 5-1 on the season.

1. The non-goaltending call

Steph Curry hit a high-arcing floater over Chet Holmgren with 0.2 seconds left that put the Warriors up two. Nothing about it initially appeared controversial. But the referees whistled Draymond Green for offensive basket interference, triggering a lengthy review that’d determine if the Warriors won or if overtime was necessary.

Green clearly did hit the rim. But Josh Giddey, a split second earlier, made contact with the net while leaping with Green. In a confusing postgame scene, there were some Warriors’ players and staffers under the belief that Curry’s basket was counted because of Giddey’s contact with the net. But the referees didn’t even mention Giddey in the pool report.

Green said that was part of the conversation at the scorer’s table in the moment. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who didn’t play for the Thunder, was trying to convince the referees that Giddey’s grab of the net had no impact on Curry’s shot, which it didn’t. But Green said he responded by saying his touch of the rim didn’t impact it either.

That was the officials’ final decision. Curry’s floater was dropping regardless. They counted it. The Warriors won.

The win moved the Warriors to 4-0 on the road early this season, a stark contrast to a season ago, when they dropped their first eight road games and didn’t reach four road wins until Jan. 13.

In so many similar situations last season, the Warriors found ways to either implode down the stretch or run into a string of bad luck. Think back on the Charlotte, Miami, Dallas and Utah losses, to name only a small handful. Fortune has flipped early this season. But presented with the obvious reversal, Steve Kerr delivered one of the more revealing sound bites of the night

“We need to leave last year in the rearview mirror,” Kerr said. “We have a decade of experience closing games, winning close games, winning championships. Last year was the exception. This year is the rule. We are who we are. There is a reason these guys have hung banners.”

This is a message he said he is sending to the outside world.

“Yes,” Kerr said. “I’m talking to you guys. We don’t talk about last year. It does keep getting brought up. Draymond brought it up himself the other night. That’s on him. But every year is different. The track record of this team the last decade is that this is the norm.”

2. The continued closing decisions

Kerr credited Jonathan Kuminga’s early second-half aggressiveness attacking the rim and Andrew Wiggins’ work on the offensive glass to open the fourth quarter as two factors that steadied the Warriors at a time of need. Kuminga has been a bit hesitant in the early weeks after a strong preseason. Wiggins hadn’t shown much of a pulse on the glass before Friday, grabbing only 12 rebounds in five games.

“For us to take that next step, Wiggs, JK and Gary (Payton II) have to be the athletes that they are,” Kerr said. “They have to provide that force and speed and athleticism at both ends. Offensive rebounds, driving to the hoop, getting fouled, easy baskets. When those guys play at a high level, it rounds out our team.”

Useful second-half stints from Kuminga and Wiggins generated a more difficult closing question for Kerr, who has often been leaving both on the bench in crunchtime. Kevon Looney didn’t fit the Thunder matchup, getting only 11 minutes, so there was a spot open. But it went to Payton. Kuminga and Wiggins appeared only for specific defense-only possessions in the closing minute.

“Tonight was a difficult decision because JK and Wiggs were playing well,” Kerr said. “But we decided to go to Gary because he was fresh and he’s our best on-ball defender. They were killing us in the small-small guard ball screens all night. Gary’s also a great finisher. He’s a power forward in a guard’s body. He made that key hoop late off of Draymond’s lob. He’s got great feel around the basket. So we went with Gary.”

The extremely good: Chris Paul had 13 assists and zero turnovers against the Thunder in 27 minutes. He now has 54 assists and only six turnovers on the season.

“I am super jealous of the assist-to-turnover ratio,” Curry said. “I do not have that in my bag.”

The bad: Paul missed all six of his shots against the Thunder, including both of his 3s. He is now 1-of-21 from deep through six games.

“Watch out when he starts making shots,” Curry said.

“They ain’t going in,” Paul said. “But good thing about it is that’s not the normal. It’s crazy to think I can score 1 point, 2 points and we can still win. It’s a nice luxury to have.”

This was actually only the second time in Paul’s career he’s played at least 26 minutes in a game and scored fewer than two points. The only other time, he went scoreless in 29 minutes back in 2011 when he was on the Hornets and they were blown out by the Grizzlies.

4. Stat of the game

The Warriors entered the night as the league’s fourth-stingiest defense. They had a 104.4 rating. But when asked about the success, Kerr warned of the small-sample-size trap before the game. It was far too early to claim they’d re-established themselves as a top-10 defense.

Then they went out and watched the Thunder drop 139 points and shoot better than 60 percent without Gilgeous-Alexander, shredding them on the drive and fearing nobody at the rim. The Thunder had 62 paint points.

The Warriors exited the game with a 109.3 defensive rating. That ranks 12th in the NBA.

“We’re a really good defensive team who had an awful defensive night,” Green said. “We didn’t do a great job getting into the ball. There was too much indecision. Indecision leads to lack of communication. Lack of communication leads to defensive breakdowns.”

5. Why did they send rookies to Santa Cruz?

One of Green’s other eyebrow-raising postgame points was regarding a lower energy level from the Warriors. He blamed that, in part, on the absence of Trayce Jackson-Davis and Brandin Podziemski, who were assigned to the G-League before the trip.

“I think our young fellas not being here — Trayce, BP and Lester (Quinones) — the energy they bring to our team, we missed that,” Green said. “So next time we have an In-Season Tournament game, we need them here. You always talk about young guys bringing energy, that’s their job. We don’t have to tell those young guys to bring energy. They do every single day. I wasn’t overly shocked our energy wasn’t there because they lift our energy level.”

Does Green believe they should be recalled?

“One thousand percent,” Green said. “Absolutely. We need them here. They are a big part of the fabric of this team. We missed them tonight.”

Kerr was asked before the game why the team sent Jackson-Davis and Podziemski to the G-League even though their season doesn’t start for a bit.

“The next few days are training camp for Santa Cruz,” Kerr said. “A lot of great drill work and scrimmage time. With neither guy in the rotation right now we thought it was better time spent there. They will rejoin the team soon.”

(Photo of Stephen Curry launching the winning basket between the Thunder’s Josh Giddey, Chet Holmgren and Luguentz Dort: Nate Billings / Associated Press)

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