Durant jumper misses buzzer, Warriors fall in opener

Without the pomp and circumstance of the ring ceremony, and the extra massive hordes at Oracle, it would be tough to distinguish the Warriors’ season opener from the preseason.

It was sloppy, disjointed, and for minutes at a time, looked reminiscent of an All-Star game.

Just long outlet passes leading to a jacked up 3-pointer after every miss. It’s a game in which Golden State normally excels, but also exposes their biggest weakness, staying locked in amidst a sloppy, chaotic environment.

And it cost them Tuesday night, as a Kevin Durant made jumper left his hand a millisecond after the game clock struck triple-zeroes and the Warriors (0-1) fell to the Houston Rockets (1-0) 122-121.

This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the Warriors’ locker room at Oracle Arena.

Steve Kerr didn’t pull any punches after the game:

“I think the right outcome happened. We deserved to lose, they outplayed us. We had control of the game most of the way but it never felt like we were executing and defending at a high level. I just thought we looked tired, I don’t think we are in good enough shape yet to play a 48-minute game against a great team.”

The feel of the game is something Warriors fans should expect going forward, because the team is going to treat this whole regular season like an extended preseason.

That might not bode well for Kerr’s stress level though as with this all-over basketball comes the bane of Kerr’s existence — turnovers. The Warriors turned it over 17 times including twice in their last three possessions, which proved vital to the Rockets’ come back. Uncharacteristically Durant totaled eight turnovers by himself.

But even with that, Stephen Curry wasn’t ready to say that this loss was something the team needed:

“That’s how the narratives going to be now, but I don’t think we needed that going into the season. That’s kind of a weak excuse going to come out of tonight saying we needed a slap in the face.”

It didn’t help that their two main cogs on offense and defense — Curry and Draymond Green — saw less than their usual minute totals. Curry because of four quick fouls played just 19 minutes through the first three quarters and Green wouldn’t return to the game after the third quarter because of a left knee strain.

That’s not to say they didn’t impact the game, as Curry was a plus-nine and poured in 22 points in his 29 minutes of action and Green finished a single point shy of a triple-double with 11 rebounds, 13 assists and nine points.

They played sidekick to Nick Young in the first half though, as “Swaggy SZN” commenced, when Young unconsciously fired in five 3-pointers in the first half and led all scorers with 20 at the break.

It was exactly the opposite of Young’s performances during the preseason and he said that’s due to his comfort level:

“I’ve been feeling more comfortable out there. And it’s great thing when you got teammates telling you to shoot the ball and having that much confidence in you. … I just have to pick my spots and get out the way, so I just have to figure out where to be out there on the court.”

He would finish with team high 23 points on 8-of-9 shooting and a Warriors franchise record of six 3-pointers in a Warriors debut. He also had trouble stopping anyone on defense, which led to him being a minus-10 despite his scoring output.

The difference between the two teams were on full display though as the Rockets kept their bench short, playing just eight guys who all topped 18 minutes. Whereas the Warriors went 11 deep — in the first quarter alone — and finished the game playing everyone who was suited up except for JaVale McGee.

Instead his usual minutes went to rookie Jordan Bell who looked either great — eight points on some awesome alley-oops — or exactly like a rookie — getting targeted and toasted by James Harden and Eric Gordon and picking up four fouls in 12 minutes.

Bell however saw no good moments in his debut:

“I don’t think I played well at all. I judge my games on how I play defensively and I played terribly defensively. They started going at me as a rookie, I just have to get used to that.”

Harden finished with a game-high 27 points, on 10-of-23 shooting (4-of-9 from deep), and added 10 assists. It was PJ Tucker, though, whose 20 points led to a game-high plus-20 point differential — Durant, who also scored 20, paced the Warriors at plus-11.

Alas, in a game the Warriors led by as much as 17, it was their inability to exert any type of control over the game, continuing to play at a frenetic pace that was their downfall. That’s the type of thing that happens when you’re in preseason though.

Up next

With the ring festivities behind them, the Warriors now head out on the road for the next three games. Starting off with a matchup against Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins and the New Orleans Pelicans Friday.

Notes

Andre Iguodala did not suit up for the season opener after he tweaked his back before the game. He’s considered day-to-day and there’s a chance he could make his debut Friday. … Omri Casspi also left the game after four minutes after he tweaked his right ankle on a fall.


Curtis Uemura is SFBay’s Golden State Warriors beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @CUemura on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Warriors basketball.