3 things to watch ahead of the Warriors’ game against the Thunder

The Golden State Warriors lost their season opener Thursday against the Los Angeles Clippers, and coach Steve Kerr made sure to emphasize the Warriors are no longer a part of the NBA’s elite.

“This is more the reality of the NBA,” coach Steve Kerr said, per 95.7 The Game. “The last five years, we’ve been living in a world that isn’t supposed to exist. Five years that basically was record-wise, I believe the best stretch anybody’s ever had over five years. This is reality. Nine guys 23 or younger. We’re starting over in many respects.”

The Warriors will look to win their first game of the season Sunday afternoon against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Here are three things to watch ahead of the Warriors’ first road game of the season.

Steph Curry’s off-ball movement 

Curry is a master at helping to control pace. In past seasons, Curry would lead the Warriors’ break, and he drew attention once he crossed half court because of his elite jumper. The Warriors were a good team because of how fast they played, putting pressure on opponents to hurry back down the floor.

But this season, the Warriors’ pace might not be as high.

Because of that, teams will crowd Curry in the halfcourt, much like the Clippers did Thursday. According to Basketball Reference, Curry had a 38.9% usage percentage in the season opener, the highest on the team.

As a result of handling the ball often, Curry had eight turnovers, his most in a game since 2016.

Throughout the Warriors’ run of excellence, however, Curry has also been great at moving without the ball. He knows where to move so his teammates find him easily.

But this season he may need to move without the ball better than ever before.

When he has the ball, teams are going to pressure him heavy. He’s one of the few scoring weapons the Warriors have now, so defenders are going to key on him. To give opponents as many different looks as possible, Curry’s off-ball movement will need to be impeccable.

The young bench 

The Warriors have nine players on their roster who are 23 or younger, and five of them played at least 11 minutes off the bench Thursday.

Eric Paschall had a solid performance in his NBA debut, scoring 14 points and grabbing four rebounds. Jacob Evans had a good game as well, scoring a career-high 14 points and shooting 4-of-6 from three.

When the young players entered the game, they showed promise, providing hustle and energy. Jordan Poole shot 2-of-13 from the field, but he looked comfortable on the floor. Paschall, a four-year player out of Villanova, played well in transition, and he also showed his ability to distribute, dishing three assists.

Interior and transition defense

The Warriors were without their leading big man Kevon Looney in the second half because he had hamstring tightness. Looney didn’t play in the preseason because of a tweaked hamstring.

Draymond Green also had suffered a right elbow contusion during the first quarter, but he returned to the game. After the game, Kerr called Green’s injury a “nerve issue,” per The Athletic’s Anthony Slater.

With Looney out and Green nursing an injury, it was easy for the Clippers to find open spots to score inside. They finished with 58 points in the paint.

Golden State also didn’t play good defense in transition, giving up 19 fast break points. It’s early in the season, but the Clippers currently look like the best team in the league because of their ability to defend and play with good pace.

The Warriors’ defense likely won’t be one of the best in the league this season because the team has so many young players. They have to learn various defensive schemes. Also, it’s a newly constructed team, so it’s going to take time for each player to figure out their roles on the defensive end.

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