The Golden State Warriors squandered another double-digit lead in typical early-season fashion on Thursday, falling to the Orlando Magic 130-129 for their fourth straight loss.
The defending champions face their toughest test in the final game of this disastrous road trip in less than 24 hours, traveling to meet Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram and the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night.
Just because the incessant fouling, lackadaisical defense and sweeping bench struggles that have dogged this team during its 3-6 start to the regular season did yet again in Orlando, though, doesn’t mean they will versus the Pelicans. Why? Not just the hopeful notion that Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and the Warriors’ starters will come out with a vengeance to avoid going winless before returning to Chase Center.
It sure seems like Golden State will make some changes to its bench units before tipoff, too.
“We’re gonna have to make some adjustments, make some changes. We’ve had what, nine games now? We’ve had a decent look at combinations, so it’s time to try something different,” Steve Kerr said of the Warriors’ rotation on the postgame podium.
Golden State raced out to an early double-digit lead over Orlando on the back of its starters, leaving the first quarter tied once Kerr went to the bench. The Warriors led 65-53 at intermission after a late first half surge by the starting five, and were on verge of blowing the game wide open when Klay Thompson hit his sixth triple of the night to put his team up 16 points midway through the third quarter.
Curry, though, returned from his scheduled rest at the 7:53 mark of the fourth quarter with Golden State suddenly trailing 110-104. Only his singular late-game shot-making brilliance gave the Warriors a chance to steal the game right back in its final moments.
But even a broken losing streak wouldn’t have kept Golden State from tweaking its lineups behind the starting five.
“We’ve gotta find combinations that work off the bench. We’ll be making some changes,” Kerr said. “As I said, we’ve gotten a look at a few different combos, and it’s time to look at a couple more.”
While Kerr was careful not to tip his hand, writing on the wall for the past few games makes clear who’s at greatest risk of falling out of the rotation. James Wiseman was flat-out bad against Orlando, compounding toothless defense and ineffective offense with a technical foul that helped further inflame the Magic’s third-quarter run.
“It’s been a tough couple games for James, but I’m a believer. I love his talent, his attitude,” Kerr said. “But there’s no shortcut for this. As an extremely young player with limited experience, it takes time.”
Don’t be surprised if Jonathan Kuminga replaces Wiseman in the rotation versus New Orleans. Fingers crossed that switch or any other lineup change proves the spark Golden State needs to return home with at least one win.