What we learned as Klay, Wiggins' struggles persist in loss to Suns

What we learned as Klay, Wiggins' struggles persist in loss to Suns originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area


Another inexcusable Warriors loss for Steve Kerr and Steph Curry to shake their heads at, despite Golden State’s reserves fighting until the very end.

The Phoenix Suns (13-10) on Tuesday night were without Kevin Durant, Grayson Allen and Nassir Little before losing Josh Okogie for the second half, on a night where he scored 10 first-half points, yet the Warriors completely crumbled in the desert for a 119-116 loss.

Curry scored a team-high 24 points, and the rest of the Warriors’ starters combined to score 12. Though Curry went ice-cold in the second half, 3 of 15 from the field and 1 of 8 on 3-pointers, asking him to carry such a heavy load is too much for even him to handle.

Klay Thompson and Andrew Wigginsoffensive struggles continued as the two combined to score only 10 points on 3-of-17 shooting. Thompson scored seven points on 2-of-10 shooting and was 1 of 8 from deep, and Wiggins, three points, finished 1 of 7 overall and 1 of 3 behind the 3-point line.

Draymond Green’s ejection in the third quarter completely flipped the game. The Warriors (10-13) were a minus-8 the rest of the game with Green watching from the locker room.

Here are three takeaways from the Warriors’ sixth straight road loss.

Bench Brigade

The first quarter concluded Tuesday without any Warriors starters in the positive of plus/minus as the both teams were tied up at 25 points apiece. Curry was the only starter not in the negative at an even zero. But five players came off the bench, and all five were in the positive.

Golden State’s second unit continued to lead the way in the second quarter, pushing the Warriors’ lead to 13 points … until the starters came back in. The Warriors held a three-point halftime lead, thanks to the bench stepping up yet again. While the Warriors’ starting frontcourt of Wiggins, Green and Kevon Looney combined for a grand total of three points in the first half, the bench outscored the Suns’ second unit 30-6 through the first two quarters.

Here’s a look at the Warriors’ first-half plus/minus numbers.

And here’s an idea of why Thompson was the lone starter to have a positive plus/minus, despite struggling shooting the ball.

Once the Warriors returned to the floor for the second half, they did so without two players: Wiggins and Looney. Steve Kerr replaced them with Jonathan Kuminga and Brandin Podziemski, and it was easy to see why. Along with being minus-16 in the first half, Wiggins also was 1-of-7 shooting from the field and had more turnovers (2) than made shots. Looney had only grabbed three rebounds, eight fewer than Jusuf Nurkic, the Suns’s starting center.

Podziemski (plus-18) led the Warriors’ bench with 20 points, 11 rebounds and five assists for his first career double-double. Kuminga (plus-13) added 16 points, Dario Saric (plus-21) totaled 15 and the Warriors had five bench players score in double figures for the first time since 2009. The Warriors’ bench scored 80 points, the most by any second unit in the NBA this season.

Draymond Ejected Again

Kerr’s lineup change only lasted three minutes and 37 seconds. Why? Because that’s how long Green lasted the rest of the game, being ejected at the 8:23 mark of the third quarter.

Green was baited by Nurkic, yet once again let his frustrations get the best of him, earning a Flagrant 2 and a trip back to the locker room.

Green, 33 years old and in his 12th NBA season, now has been ejected 18 times for his career in the regular season and a sixth have been this season – following a four-year, $100 million contract signed over the offseason. Tuesday night marked the Warriors’ 23rd game this season, and Green’s 15th. He has been ejected three times, missed two games to injury, one to personal reasons and five from suspension.

The NBA not suspending him for his actions on Nurkic would be a major surprise. Green also already has four flagrant points this season, too. His final line for the night: two points, two rebounds, two assists, three fouls, three turnovers, one ejection and a minus-15 in 17 minutes.

When Green was ejected, the Warriors held a 65-60 lead. They then went into the fourth quarter down 88-87.

Welcome Back, CP3

As the Warriors committed countless turnovers Friday night in Oklahoma City, 29 in total for 35 points from the Thunder, a certain somebody missed the overtime loss because of an illness. Chris Paul’s return against his former team was a welcome one, that’s for sure.

Paul in the first half tallied six assists without a single turnover. Yet the Warriors' starting five combined for six assists but four turnovers. While Paul did turn the ball over once in the second half, he easily made up for that one blemish.

The 19-year veteran ended scoring 15 points and handed out 11 assists for his fourth double-double as a Warrior. Paul also added five rebounds and two steals, and was a plus-12. His alley-oop to Kuminga is what everybody has been waiting for.

The closing lineup of Paul, Curry, Podziemski, Kuminga and Saric were a plus-4 over the final five minutes, outscoring the Suns 20-16. Paul’s 11 assists led to 25 Warriors points.