Photo credit: @warriors
By Jerry Feitelberg
The Golden State Warriors, playing their fifth game in the last eight days, and the second in the last two nights, blew an 11-point advantage to lose for the 19th time this year. The Warriors also fell out of first place in the Western Conference.
The Warriors gave Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala the night off. The Warriors were hoping to bounce back from the shocking loss to the Miami Heat Wednesday night. Warriors head coach Steve Kerr selected Alfonzo McKinnie to take Durant’s spot, and he inserted Demarcus Cousins back in the lineup at center. The Warriors wanted Cousins, Steph Curry, and Klay Thompson to carry the offensive load Thursday night. The Warriors also wanted to get off to a good start in the first quarter. The Warriors played poorly against the Miami Heat Wednesday night, and they did not play well in the first quarter against the Magic on Thursday. In fact. The Warriors never had the lead at all in the first half.
The Magic, who had lost 11 straight games to the Warriors, went right after Cousins as they drove the lane and were making layups. The Warriors were attempting threes and had little success. The Warriors shot just 34% from the floor and ended the first period trailing 28-22. The Magic increased the lead to 41-31 before Thompson, McKinnie, and Curry made shots and the Warriors cut the deficit to four 43-39. The Magic regrouped and finished the first half leading by eight 59-51. The Magic shot 51% from the floor, and the best the Warriors could do was 39%. The Warriors were 4-for-21 from three-point range. The Warrior bench contributed just two points. Curry had 19, Thompson had 15, and Cousins had 11. The Magic’s Aaron Gordon had 10, Nikola Vucevic had 7, and D.J. Augustin had 10.
The Warriors woke up and played Warrior basketball in the third quarter. They started the quarter on a 25-7 run and won the period 30-11 to lead 81-71 after three periods of action. The 11 points scored by the Magic was the lowest point total of any opponent in any quarter this season.
The fourth quarter, however, was a reversal of fortune. With the score 85-72. The Magic went on an 8-0 run to trail by five. The Magic tied the score at 89, and it looked as if the Warriors had run out of gas. Shots were clanging off the front of the rim. The W’s continued to miss three-pointers. The Magic took the lead for good 95-94 when they hit a three. They increased the lead to five 101-96 late in the game. The Warriors did not score again. The Magic added two points and won 103-96.
Game Notes and Stats: The Warriors, with the loss, dropped to 43-19 and are now in second place in the Western Conference. The Magic improved to 29-34, and they are tied for the eighth seed in the NBA’s Eastern Conference.
Curry led the Warriors with 33 points. Thompson had 21, Cousins had 21 and 11 rebounds. Draymond Green had five, and McKinnie four. The Warrior bench added just 12 points. Four of the Magic starters were in double figures. Aaron Gordon led the team with 22. Jonathan Isaac and Nikola Vecevic had 12 each. Augustin finished with 14. The Magic bench put 41 points on the board.
Up Next: The Warriors travel to Philadelphia to face the 76ers Saturday night at 5:30 pm. The Sixers with Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, JJ Redick, and Jimmy Butler easily handled the Warriors when they played in Oakland. Hopefully, the Warrior defense, with Cousins in the middle, will be able to stop the Sixer offense. The Warriors then return to Oracle to face the Boston Celtics on March 5th and the Denver Nuggets on March 8th.
The Warriors will have work to do if they want to repeat as NBA champions. They have to play better in the first half. They have to contain the opposing offenses and not play as if they are running uphill. They have to get better play from the bench. They do not have anyone right now that is giving them instant offense. They do not have a Goran Dragic or a Lou Williams. Kevon Looney and Jordan Bell have to be able to play defense and put some points on the board so that the Warriors can rest Cousins. Cousins has shown that he can play, but he has been beaten as teams have been scoring inside on the pick and roll. The Warriors next three opponents know they can beat the Warriors. The Warriors will need to play a better brand of basketball if they hope to make it all the way through the playoffs.