There’s no denying the Golden State Warriors’ 112-104 loss to the short-handed Indiana Pacers on Monday at Chase Center was shocking. Just because the defending champions’ first home defeat in 10 games stunned, though, hardly means it didn’t feel familiar.
“I just thought they came in and outplayed us, out-coached us. It was almost a carbon copy of last year’s game, with different personnel, obviously,” Steve Kerr said on the postgame podium. “But the same thing happened last year: They had three or four guys out, and they came in and took it to us. That first quarter, it was obvious just right away just how fast and athletic and aggressive they were. We were swimming upstream the entire night.”
— Warriors Nation (@WarriorNationCP) December 6, 2022
The Pacers played without Tyrese Haliburton and Myles Turner on Monday, their up-and-coming franchise point guard and most impactful two-way player counting among several other absences. A much different Indiana team found itself in the same position last January, facing Golden State in San Francisco without Domantas Sabonis, Malcolm Brogdon, Caris LeVert and Turner.
Rookie second-rounder Andrew Nembhard was the Pacers’ unlikely star this time, dropping season-highs of 31 points and 13 assists while keeping the Warriors from clawing back in crunch-time. Chris Duarte was another of Indiana’s absences on Monday, but knew exactly what Nembhard’s breakout night felt like regardless. He scored 27 points on 10-of-16 shooting last January, spearheading his underdog team’s overtime win.
“We never contained them defensively. They were in control the whole game,” Kerr said. “Nembhard was fantastic and controlled the whole game for them. We were never able to string together a bunch of stops.”
Golden State’s defense definitely wasn’t good enough on Monday. Andrew Wiggins was sorely missed on that end from the opening tip, as the Warriors proved helpless to keep the ball out of the paint, were exploited on switches and lacked teeth in help situations.
But this game was a reminder of just how pivotal a space Wiggins now occupies in Golden State’s offensive ecosystem, too.
No one could take reliable advantage of the mass attention Indiana paid to a struggling Stephen Curry. The Warriors didn’t just fail to pressure the rim with any consistency in the halfcourt, but shot just 13-of-44 from deep—at least partially the result of a 45%, high-volume three-point shooter sitting on the sidelines.
Golden State’s long-range marks in last season’s dispiriting loss to the Pacers? An even worse 9-of-42, good for 21.4%.
Bad shooting nights happen, and so do bouts of lethargy and fleeting overall engagement—especially against objectively inferior competition. The Warriors just didn’t take Indiana seriously enough on Monday, and paid for it. Here’s hoping a repeat of last year’s disappointment helps them learn a needed lesson.