SAN JOSE, Calif. — In winning 105-96 in their preseason hosting of the Sacramento Kings, the Golden State Warriors thrilled, at points, while looking rusty at others.
The Warriors should score easily, maybe historically easily, but have an offensive issue to address — for now. Their attack calls for its center to act as something of a fulcrum, someone who holds the ball while screening and reading the defense, ready to pass at any point.
Andrew Bogut was good at this deceptively difficult role. He produced a career high in assist percentage within Steve Kerr’s offense, somehow managing to direct traffic at a standstill. His replacement, Zaza Pachulia, has some catching up to do.
Golden State’s constant movement is designed to disorient the opposition but can have a similar effect on a newly initiated Warrior. Pachulia is a good passer but not yet at ease in this whirling chaos. His finishing issues are also a concern in a situation that will give him plenty of opportunities. In Thursday’s game, he looked lost. It wasn’t Pachulia’s fault that teammates were hurling the ball away (Golden State had 15 turnovers at the half), but his progress would do much to stabilize the offense. On the defensive end, Pachulia was targeted repeatedly by DeMarcus Cousins, who bullied his way to 20 points on 11 shots before taking the night off.
Though the offense might not be entirely stable yet, it’s still explosive. Kevin Durant continues to look unleashed in this preseason, scoring a casual 25 points in 26 minutes on 11 shots. He’s not nearly as deferential as he was in the first preseason game. One illustrative play happened with 9:45 left in the second quarter, when Durant clapped so loudly for the rock that it echoed across the San Jose SAP Center. The thwack got the attention of Shaun Livingston, who immediately looked up and shoveled the ball to Durant for one of his four 3-pointers on the night.
In contrast, Stephen Curry continues to play more restrained than usual, attempting a mere eight shots (for 13 points) and generally eschewing the kinds of highly contested bombs that defined his ascent to superstardom. Perhaps it’s a preseason aberration or perhaps it’s a trend, but so far, Curry seems to be sacrificing much in this arrangement. The same could be said for Draymond Green, who tossed up only five shots (9 points).
On Durant, Green said after the game, “Definitely getting more and more comfortable. I think he still needs to be more aggressive, but that will all come with time.”
Durant on Green saying that: “There’s a couple shots that I passed up, but for the most part I just try to be efficient with the shots that I do get. I just hate when I make silly turnovers.”
Speaking of not going down without a fight, JaVale McGee delivered some spirited play in his seven minutes on the floor. He scored five points, grabbed four boards and absorbed a Garrett Temple jump shot. McGee also nearly had a dunk on the other end — if not for a Matt Barnes‘ pro wrestling move.
It’s possible Pachulia’s early struggles help open up a spot for McGee, just in case, as an emergency backstop. Then again, it’s the preseason, with a team whose margin for error might boast a bigger scope than its stars’ combined fame.