The Warriors are 0-4 on a disastrous road trip, and rotation changes are coming

ORLANDO — If there were a single possession to sum up this disastrous road trip for the wobbling Golden State Warriors, it came late in the third quarter in Orlando, directly in the middle of a 16-point collapse to a Magic team that entered with the league’s second-worst record.

The Warriors’ lead had sunk to eight. There were 50 seconds until the quarter break. A stop and score may have stabilized them. They produced what looked like a stop. Chuma Okeke bricked a wing 3. Three Warriors — Stephen Curry, Moses Moody and James Wiseman — were in pristine position for the rebound when it ricocheted off the back of the rim. Here is a screenshot of the moment.

The lone Magic player in the vicinity is Kevon Harris. He’s an undrafted rookie guard with 11 career rebounds in six games. It’s Curry’s assignment to box him out. If he lays a body on him, the rebound lands with Wiseman or Moody. But Curry doesn’t box him out. He instead wanders through the lane and out of the mix, leaving Harris an opening to explore a rebound he otherwise probably wouldn’t chase.

That’s the first mistake. It’s not the last. Moody and Wiseman don’t show a nose or desire for the ball while it’s in the air. Moody stands and watches. Wiseman attacks it only after a delayed response. Both are gaffes. Wiseman’s is of greater concern since he’s the 7-foot-1 center whose greater responsibility on this team is to clean up the glass in such situations, even if Curry whiffs on his box-out assignment.

This is the result. Harris is able to grab the rebound and bounce back up for a layup while Wiseman, in a panic, whacks him across the arm for an and-1. Look at Curry, Moody and Wiseman separately.

You can see Wiseman grab the basketball and fire it into the stanchion at the end of the clip. This was at the tail end of a frustrating sequence for him that included a questionable rebounding foul on the other end. He had a putback wiped off the board and hung his head after the whistle, perhaps snowballing into the slow-reactive error that led to the Harris and-1.

This was a Scott Foster-refereed game. His crew isn’t going to allow a player to fire a fastball into the stanchion without consequence. Wiseman’s boiling frustration — at himself, not the referees — earned a technical foul. Warriors coach Steve Kerr called for Draymond Green to replace Wiseman while Franz Wagner made the technical free throw. “F—!” Wiseman yelled in internal frustration as he arrived on the bench. Golden State was a minus-9 in his 10 minutes. He wouldn’t see the floor again.

“It’s been a tough couple of games for James,” Kerr said. “But I’m a believer. I love his talent, his attitude. But there’s no shortcuts.”

The Harris and-1 and Wagner free throw had trimmed the lead to five. But the disastrous possession wasn’t done. Harris still had the free throw from the Wiseman foul. Green had replaced Wiseman as a big man on the low block.

Harris missed the free throw. Okeke, averaging 3.8 rebounds per game, hit an unprepared Green, fresh off the bench, with a quick swim move to get inside position. He snatched the offensive rebound. He pinged it back out to the perimeter. The ball found RJ Hampton. He banked in a 3. This completed a six-point possession. The shellshocked Warriors were suddenly only up two.

Within tight-margin games, a six-point sequence like the one detailed above can certainly swing the result. The Warriors lost 130-129 after Klay Thompson missed a runner at the buzzer. Jalen Suggs, a career 22 percent 3-point shooter, nailed two mammoth 3s in the final minutes. There were unlucky aspects to the loss for the Warriors, but their repetitive mistakes put them in position for the knockout blow.

That’s now an 0-4 open to this Warriors trip with losses in Charlotte, Detroit, Miami and Orlando. The Hornets are 3-5. The Pistons are 2-7. The Heat are 4-5. The Magic are 2-7. Those are four of the worst seven current teams in the East, dropping the Warriors to 3-6, which places them 12th in the West, ahead of only the Los Angeles Lakers, Sacramento Kings and Houston Rockets.

The current problem is multifaceted. The Warriors are getting barely anything at the rim. Their 116.8 defensive rating ranks 26th in the league. They’re fouling like crazy, hacking the Magic 32 times Thursday night, leading to their widest free-throw-attempt margin (Orlando 46, Warriors 15) in a game since 2013.

Kerr made sure to pin that fouling problem primarily on his starters, who once again were terrific as a unit — plus-8 in a one-point loss — but shaky once they were surrounded by any reserves. Draymond Green has committed six, four, four and six fouls on the four games this trip, missing the end of two close losses. Looney had five fouls against the Magic.

“We had three fouls in the first few minutes,” Kerr said. “So, this isn’t a case of our new guys or young guys fouling. It’s everybody. Steph had a reach early on. Once you start to foul, now every single one … it starts to snowball.”

But the bigger issue plaguing this team isn’t the veterans. Curry had 39 points on 22 shots. He’s been mostly magnificent. Thompson nailed eight 3s against the Magic. Wiggins biffed an open layup late but is an increasingly reliable force. Green is fouling too much but has otherwise brought the necessary juice on both ends. Looney leads the team in plus/minus.

Everything is falling apart when the bench players hit the floor. Jordan Poole went 4-of-12 in Orlando, is only making 31 percent of his 3s this season and has been a turnstile at times on the perimeter. Donte DiVincenzo is injured. Wiseman’s continued struggles are chronicled. Jonathan Kuminga is buried behind Wiseman and JaMychal Green. He received zero minutes for the third time in five games.

But rotation alterations are apparently coming.

“We’re going to have to make some adjustments, make some changes,” Kerr said. “We’ve had nine games now. We’ve had a decent look at combinations. So it’s time to try something different.”

What could that be? Kuminga is the most obvious candidate for a promotion. He hasn’t been effective in his brief time this season, but he also hasn’t been set up well with sporadic opportunities and odd combinations that have him at the small forward in bigger groups. He makes sense as a power forward in smaller, switchable lineups.

So that might mean Kuminga takes Wiseman’s or JaMychal Green’s minutes or perhaps some other tweaks. Kerr said the staff will discuss it before the road trip finale in New Orleans on Friday night.

“Everybody’s going to get a chance to play,” Kerr said. “We’ve got guys who are dying to get on the floor. We’ve gotta find combinations that click. So we’ll discuss that as a staff and figure that out.”

(Photo of the Magic’s Kevon Harris going up for a layup against James Wiseman and Moses Moody after grabbing an offensive rebound: Mike Watters / USA Today)


Leave a Comment