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Warriors show positive signs after rough start as Stephen Curry gets aggressive, Kelly Oubre Jr. settles in

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Strictly speaking, the Golden State Warriors‘ four-game, season-opening road trip went as planned: They lost the two games they were supposed to lose — to the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks — and they won the two games they were supposed to win — against the Chicago Bulls and Detroit Pistons

It feels good because the two victories came on the latter end, sending the Warriors home on a positive note after a 116-106 win in Detroit on Tuesday. But temper the optimism. The Pistons are truly terrible, and they played the second half without the services of Blake Griffin and rookie Killian Hayes. Chicago isn’t much better, and the Warriors needed a last-second 3-pointer from Damion Lee to escape that one. 

The Warriors still do not look like anything close to a playoff team. 

That said, there are some relatively positive signs that can potentially be built upon. Kelly Oubre Jr. made a 3-pointer! He’s now 1 for 21 for the season, which somehow looks better than the 0 for 33 he was on non-dunk attempts entering Tuesday’s game. 

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Give Oubre credit: He remained aggressive through what was, through three games, literally the worst shooting start to a season since the beginning of the shot-clock era, which dates back to 1954, per ESPN Stats and Info. For the season, it’s taken Oubre 40 shots to score 31 points, a efficiency that ranks him in the league’s lowest percentile, per Synergy. But on Tuesday he was 6 for 10 from the field for 14 points. Baby steps. 

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More importantly, Oubre’s defensive energy has never waned. To be clear, he hasn’t been great, or even good, defensively to start the season; he’s been pretty disorganized, actually, and he’s gotten beat off the dribble quite a lot. But the energy is there. He’s picking his spots to pick up three-quarters court and hound ball-handlers, and his ball pressure can be relentless with his combination of length and lateral quickness. 

Before the season, Oubre boasted of the “havoc” he and Andrew Wiggins could cause as aggressive, athletic defenders, and this is a taste of that. They tag-teamed Delon Wright to perfection in that last clip. In the first clip, Killian Hayes couldn’t get an inch of space on Oubre, but again keep in mind, this is Killian Hayes. He’s a rookie, and he’s not terribly quick or athletic. He’s the perfect type of prey for Oubre to harass. 

Still, you can imagine this kind of defensive pressure yielding dividends against better competition when Draymond Green returns, which is expected to be soon, perhaps even for Golden State’s home opener against the Blazers on Friday. Green should tie up a lot of the Warriors’ loose ends, on the offensive end as well; Stephen Curry, for one, will be thrilled to have Draymond back in the lineup for his passing and screening savvy. 

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Curry is finding his rhythm, scoring 67 points over his last two games. He’s quickly realizing he has to be in shot-hunting mode pretty much 100 percent of the time he’s on the court, and perhaps Steve Kerr is realizing that, too. Kerr wants to move the ball and include everyone, but Curry surely has the green light to attack off the dribble, or via pick-and-roll, early in the shot clock, and he’s doing more of that; whether he ends up shooting or passing, the offense clearly runs best when Curry’s creating it. 

But he can’t do it all, which leads us to another positive development: Andrew Wiggins. He was horrendous to start the season, but he’s settled in over the last two games. He posted 27 points, seven rebounds, three assists and three blocks on Tuesday. He’s 7 for his last 11 from 3, and his ability to create one-on-one offense is crucial, particularly when Curry is off the floor but also when they’re playing together; a lot of Curry’s off-ball actions get thwarted with aggressive switching, leaving late-clock possessions in the hands of someone else. Wiggins can be the guy to salvage some those possessions. 

Again, keep this all in perspective. Wiggins played well against two bad teams and terrible against two good teams. He’s been inconsistent his whole career. It’s not a surprise to see him have a big game. He’s a legit 20-point scorer in the league. He has nights where he looks like an All-Star. Tuesday was one of those nights. The Warriors need a lot more of them. 

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More than anything, the Warriors need Green to be at an All-Star and All-Defense level upon his return, and for the entirety of the season if they have any intention of being a playoff contender. If we’ve learned nothing else through these first four games, it’s that Golden State has basically zero margin for error. Everyone has to stay healthy. Everyone has to play at the top of their range. These last two games, albeit against awful competition, were at least a marginally promising start. 


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