SHENZHEN, China – With every movement they made, the Warriors met roaring approval. They heard the roars when Stephen Curry shot a series of floaters left-handed and right-handed. They heard the roars when Kevin Durant threw down a handful of dunks. They heard the roars when Klay Thompson launched countless 3-pointers.
And to think, this festive atmosphere took place before the Warriors even played a game. More than two hours before the Warriors’ eventual 111-95 preseason loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves at Shenzhen Universiade Center, a sellout crowd of 17,495 fans greeted the Warriors’ star players with their own welcome reception.
As they all do in the Bay Area, the Warriors’ fans here furiously whipped out their phones to record pictures and take video of Curry’s pregame routine that entailed ballhandling drills, jump shots and 3-pointers. Lots of 3-pointers. Curry then talked and posed for photos with Martin Lau, the president of Tencent Holdings.
After becoming enough of a viral favorite to command a new trend on Twitter, Thompson heard once again that the fans here love China Klay. They welcomed him as soon as he walked onto the court before nearly making every 3-pointer.
Durant heard the loudest applause of all. When he set foot in the arena, Durant could hear the cheers even through his noise-canceling headphones. He briefly took them off and raised his hands to the sky as a gesture of gratitude. Durant then put his headphones back on before entertaining the crowd with dunks and 3-point shots. Warriors forward Nick Young also felt the warm reception here, with one fan even donning a “Swaggy P” Warriors jersey.
Once the game finally started, the decibel level inevitably grew. Despite the Warriors falling 0-2 in preseason, the fans stayed engaged. Below are five things they monitored:
1. The Warriors’ outside shooting remains an issue – with a disclaimer
The crowd correctly anticipated the inevitable as soon as the ball left Curry’s fingertips. He splashed 3-pointers on consecutive possessions to open the game, setting up an unrealistic expectation for the Warriors’ star nearly any time he touched the ball. Shoot every time. Curry did not need to do that since he can often rely on Thompson.
Once it ended, the Warriors still shot a combined 9 of 29 from 3-point range. But those numbers need some context. Curry (2 of 5) and Thompson (3 of 6) looked normal. So did the starters as a whole (8 of 17). Meanwhile, the bench went 1 of 12 from 3-point range.
So because of that, the Warriors technically continued a poor outside shooting stretch after going 4 of 33 from the perimeter last week against Denver.
2. Durant played aggressively
Durant entertained the crowd with thunderous dunks, including a two-handed slam to finish the first half and give the Warriors a 55-50 lead. Durant also entertained the crowd with amazing fundamentals. He used precise footwork to create separation in the post, along the baseline and in the paint. He also showed great timing with pull-up jumpers and a reverse layup. That set up Durant to post 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting in 25 minutes.
None of this should be surprising for someone of Durant’s stature. But his performance provides early signs that he looks comfortable and healthy enough to simply build off last season’s finish as an NBA champion and Finals MVP.
3. Good defense led to easy offense
The Warriors can score usually any time they want on talent alone. But their offense became much more balanced and efficient because of effective defense. The Warriors held Minnesota to 37 of 88 (40.5 percent) from the field, including ineffective nights from Karl-Anthony Towns (16 points on 5-for-15 shooting) and Jeff Teague (eight points on 3 of 12). Those defensive stops often turned into cross-court passes for easy baskets.
Everyone contributed that on front, including Curry (six rebounds, four assists), Green (six rebounds, nine assists) and Zaza Pachulia (six rebounds, three assists). Warriors reserve center JaVale McGee also set the tone defensively for the second unit, both on rotations and energy. Late in the third quarter, McGee also had a little scuffle with Minnesota’s Shabazz Muhammad. All of which lived up to coach Steve Kerr’s hope for the team to play with an edge.
4. Nick Young struggled closing the game out
Just like his All-Star teammates, Young heard fans chant for him to shoot when he had the ball. Young did not always listen. But he could not live up to his pledge to make baskets. Young had seven points on a 3-of-8 clip, 1 of 5 from 3-point range and 0 of 5 from the foul line.
Young then suffered a possible injury scare in the fourth quarter. After he tried grabbing a rebound, Young fell on his backside. Though he stood up on his own, Young appeared in visible pain. After missing two free-throw attempts, Young then went to the locker room with 4:06 remaining.
5. Omri Casspi looked impressive in his Warriors’ debut
The Warriors’ newly acquired reserve forward spent the preseason opener taking a personal day to celebrate Yom Kippur. Casspi spent the Warriors’ second exhibition game playing aggressively and efficiently.
He posted six points on 3-of-5 shooting in 12 minutes off the bench by maximizing his opportunities without forcing the issue. On one play, Casspi attacked the basket and finished. On another play, he cut toward the paint and read Andre Iguodala’s no-look bounce pass perfectly. Casspi also showed some emotion when he became frustrated with a call. Overall, lots of positive energy.