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What we learned as Steph-less Warriors struggle in loss to Spurs

What we learned as Steph-less Warriors struggle in loss to Spurs originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

Playing without two-time NBA scoring champ Stephen Curry, the Warriors looked out of sync most of the night and never really found a consistent rhythm on offense, falling to the sputtering San Antonio Spurs 126-113 on Saturday at Chase Center.

Curry is sidelined with a right ankle sprain injury that he suffered in the final minutes of Thursday’s loss to the Chicago Bulls. His absence was felt throughout the game Saturday, as Golden State fell behind early and never recovered.

Klay Thompson did his best to fill some of the offensive void created by Curry’s absence despite getting into early foul trouble. Thompson came off the bench to score 27 points on the strength of five 3-pointers.

Chris Paul, who got the start at point guard with Curry missing, added 10 points, nine assists and three steals. Draymond Green filled up the stat sheet with seven points, five rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block. Trayce Jackson-Davis and Andrew Wiggins each scored 11, and Jonathan Kuminga finished with 26 points on 10-of-16 shooting with three rebounds and an assist in 18 minutes

Golden State also was without one of its key reserves, Gary Payton II, who sat out because of an illness.

No one should be feeling too well after this latest setback.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr was forced to adjust his rotations again, and he trotted out the 20th different lineup that he has used during the 2023-24 NBA season.

Jackson-Davis got the start at center, which freed up Green to move to power forward while Wiggins went back to the bench. Brandon Podziemski started with Paul in the backcourt while Kuminga got the nod at forward.

Without Curry, however, it really didn’t seem to matter who was out there for the Warriors (33-30).

San Antonio (14-50) led 62-43 at halftime and were up by 17 heading into the fourth, then rolled to the victory.

The Warriors have lost all four games this season in which Curry has not played. Since the 2014-15 season, Golden State is 64-105 (.379) without Curry.

It also marked the first time since Jan. 20, 2023, that the Warriors haven’t had either Curry or Thompson in the starting lineup, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

The two teams play each other again on Monday in San Antonio.

Here are the takeaways from Saturday’s game:

Stepping in for Steph

You can replace his body on the court, but there’s really no replacing the type of production that Curry provides on a nightly basis -- and the Warriors continue to find out how difficult life can be without him. They’re now 0-4 this season without No. 30 able to do his thing.

Paul and Podziemski split the point guard chores for most of the game, and the two did a decent job spreading the ball around.

The problem, however, was that the Warriors never had a rhythm to their offense. They got plenty of open looks, especially early, but couldn’t get much to fall. That allowed the Spurs to race out to a double-digit lead in the second quarter.

Golden State’s shooting issues without Curry were so bad that the Spurs frequently dropped into a zone defense, basically daring Golden State to make a shot from the outside.

As most of Dub Nation knows, Curry does so much more than score. His quickness and ability to get to the rack creates space for his teammates to make plays. Without him, Golden State’s offense simply had no flow.

Curry is almost certainly going to miss Monday’s rematch in San Antonio, so the Warriors better figure something out and do it fast.

Missed opportunity

This one stung even worse than the loss to the Bulls.

On paper, this was a game that the Warriors were counting on to have. The Spurs own the worst record (14-50) in the Western Conference and had dropped seven of their previous 10 games

San Antonio was also without Victor Wembanyama, the No. 1 overall pick who is also nursing a sore right ankle.

It had all the makings of a trap game and wound up being just that.

The Spurs basically beat the Warriors at their own game. San Antonio shot 17 of 33 (51.5 percent) behind the arc while Golden State shot 10 of 30 on threes.

A win would have moved the Warriors into a tie with the idle Los Angeles Lakers for ninth place in the West. Now, they’re a full game behind Los Angeles and 2.5 games back of the Dallas Mavericks, who sit in the No. 8 slot.

TJD as a starter

Kerr had talked about the need to get Jackson-Davis some additional minutes to prepare the rookie for the NBA playoffs, and the Warriors coach thought the rookie would give Paul more opportunities for lob passes down low.

While the CP3-TJD combo didn’t connect offense, Jackson-Davis had a decent overall effort with the exception of his free-throw shooting (1 of 5).

Jackson-Davis showed what kind of an impact he can make when he got an early block on Spurs’ 6-foot-11 center Zach Collins then snagged the rebound. Later in the first quarter, he hauled in an alley-oop pass from Podziemski and slammed it in to give the Warriors a 21-20 lead.

Jackson-Davis made all five shots he took to go with six rebounds and three blocks. It’s the 11th time this season that the athletic young forward has had multiple blocks in a game, the most by a Golden State rookie since James Wiseman did it in 12 games as a rookie during the 2020-21 NBA season.

Jackson-Davis still has a lot of improving to do, but with Kerr committed to getting him on the court more as the season heads down the stretch, he should continue to develop into a solid and very athletic big man in the NBA.

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