The Golden State Warriors fell to the Chicago Bulls 132-118 on Sunday, coming apart late amid a rash of turnovers, fouls and allowed three-pointers. Here are three reactions from the defending champions’ rough loss on their first leg of an afternoon back-to-back.
Turnovers doom Warriors
The Warriors fell behind the Bulls 27-10 in large part due to a series of turnovers indicative of their lazy, listless start to Sunday’s matinee.
Golden State turned the ball over seven times in the first quarter alone, Chicago’s active hands at the point of attack and in help position yielding several steals. Nikola Vucevic, Alex Caruso and Ayo Dosunmu frequently disrupted Steph Curry and Klay Thompson in ball-screen and dribble hand-off action, igniting the Bulls’ transition attack.
Other times, though, the Warriors’ early turnovers were more self-inflicted than created.
Golden State got back in the game after the first quarter because it finally began taking better care of the rock. Even so, the Warriors weren’t completely immune to their turnover bugaboo.
When was the last time you saw Curry bounce the ball off his foot while dribbling up the floor?
Still re-acclimating in just his third game back from almost a month of play missed due to injury, Curry shuffled his feet on the catch for a similarly egregious turnover in the third quarter.
That miscue paved the way for more game-changing turnovers to come. Three of Golden State’s seven third-quarter turnovers came on successive possessions shortly after Curry’s travel, helping turn an eight-point lead early in the quarter to a six-point deficit entering the fourth.
Curry and the Warriors, unfortunately, weren’t done there. Golden State had five more turnovers in the final stanza as its comeback hopes unraveled, multiple of which came from the reigning Finals MVP.
The Warriors’ 23 turnovers tied for their third-most in a game this season. Curry’s eight turnovers were a season-high, and the fourth-most he’s ever had in a single game. Draymond Green had six turnovers, three coming on moving screens. Jordan Poole played with impressive poise and patience in the first half, but still ended up with four turnovers. Chicago scored a whopping 31 points off turnovers on Sunday.
Golden State has never been a low-turnover team under Kerr. That won’t he changing, as much as the coaching staff emphasizes taking care of the ball. But the number and nature of the Warriors’ turnovers were as bad as they’ve been all season at United Center, wasting a strong second quarter, Klay Thompson’s eight triples and 21 made three-pointers overall in a frustrating loss.
No answer for Nikola Vucevic
Sunday’s game certainly won’t quiet calls for Golden State to add size before the trade deadline comes and goes on February 9th. Vucevic poured in 43 points on 18-of-31 shooting against the Warriors, draining five threes, grabbing 13 rebounds—including four on offense—and doling out four assists.
Golden State opened the game by switching across four positions, Vucevic making the defense pay early and often against size mismatches.
The Warriors quickly went away from that plan, hedging and recovering in ball-screen action to keep Green or Kevon Looney attached to the skilled seven-footer. But that approach gave Vucevic room to launch from the perimeter, where he had it going from the opening tip.
Why Golden State didn’t offer aggressive nail help from the weak side in pick-and-pop situations, daring the likes of Dosunmu and Derrick Jones Jr. to score on the possession below, is anyone’s guess.
That extra help isn’t even available on empty-corner ball screens on the side of the floor, as the Warriors learned time and again after intermission.
There aren’t many big men with Vucevic’s combination of size, skill and offensive versatility. Nikola Jokic certainly has all that and more, though, begging the question of how Golden State could possibly contain the two-time reigning MVP in a playoff series if Green or Looney ever get in foul trouble.
Remember Vucevic’s performance as the deadline approaches. It could very well inform Bob Myers’ approach to adding reinforcements.
Anthony Lamb, impact player
It’s time for the Warriors to make Lamb a permanent part of the roster. Golden State’s two-way player keyed his team’s first-half comeback on Sunday, continuing to shoot the ball well from deep while showing off finishing chops and defensive prowess every teams looks from forwards off the bench.
Lamb’s shot release seems to have sped up since the season tipped off. This bail-out triple just before the shot clock expired wouldn’t have been possible a couple months ago.
While it’s helpful Lamb can hit tough shots under duress, what will keep him in the rotation going forward is his ability to knock down triples off typical advantage situations.
His cut cross-court from the right wing to the left wing before Donte DiVincenzo enters to Looney to initiate split action helps create this wing three.
Lamb is hardly Andrew Wiggins let alone Jonathan Kuminga as an aerial finisher, but he’s not entirely ground-bound. How many players on Golden State’s roster other than Wiggins and Kuminga make this finish look so routine?
Lamb is no offensive specialist, either. What first helped him get minutes was his basic—if sometimes overzealous—defensive versatility both on and off the ball.
Watch him help to the strong side, cutting off Jones Jr., then keep his head on a swivel for a quick-jump recovery block. The coast-to-cost take layup next is just icing on the cake of Lamb’s case for a full-time roster spot.
Golden State would still be best off if it wasn’t forced to rely on Lamb, instead able to get away with a wing rotation of Wiggins, Thompson, Kuminga and Andre Iguodala—and ideally, a pickup at the trade deadline. But injuries and foul trouble are inevitable, and Lamb has shot the ball well enough of late to be a real threat offensively every time he takes the floor.
Don’t be surprised if the Warriors soon promote him from two-way status after the trade deadline, confident they won’t do better than Lamb on the buyout market, and rightfully so.