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Warriors observations: Jonathan Kuminga plays well in loss to Pelicans

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The Warriors don’t believe in moral victories. Nor should the defending champions. 

However, they have been searching for positives and Friday night certainly was one in their 114-105 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans at Smoothie King Center. 

Resting Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins on the second night of a back-to-back, the Warriors hung around all game long. Golden State’s youngsters stepped up in many cases, and they gave the Pelicans everything they had. But with that much talent sidelined, they simply were overmatched.

Jonathan Kuminga took advantage of his opportunity, as did both of the Warriors’ two-way players, Ty Jerome and Anthony Lamb. The Warriors only had 10 available players. All 10 played, and many will give Steve Kerr a lot to think about. 

On a night full of positives, the Warriors did turn the ball over 23 times, and the Pelicans scored 36 points off those turnovers. The Warriors went winless on their five-game road trip, are 0-6 on the road this season and head back to San Francisco with a 3-7 record.

Here are three takeaways from the Warriors’ loss to the Pelicans.

Free Kuminga

With a plethora of the Warriors’ top players out for the finale of their five-game road trip, every available player had a chance to prove themselves. None more than Kuminga. 

After two straight DNPs (Did Not Play), the 20-year-old forward was in the starting lineup and took full advantage of his opportunity. Everything Kerr could have wanted out of the former top pick, Kuminga gave him. He didn’t waste any time, too. 

 

To open the game, Kuminga played great defense on All-Star Brandon Ingram to force an errant shot. Soon after, Kuminga got Zion Williamson to jump on a pump fake and then made both of his free throws. While of course providing at least one highlight dunk, Kuminga played smart basketball and full of energy. 

When he cuts to the basket like this, good things will follow. 

By halftime, Kuminga scored 11 points while shooting 4-for-6 from the field, and was plus-9 in plus-minus. And yes, there was the highlight-reel dunk that Kerr loved for his hesitation and smart decision.

Over 38 minutes, Kuminga finished with 18 points to go with four rebounds, two assists, two steals and one block. Opportunities should open up for him.

Why They Signed Him

A 6-foot-6 wing who was a four-year college player, hustles on defense and can stretch the floor? Lamb sure looked like a Warriors-type of player Friday night, and proved why the Warriors signed him to a two-way contract late in the preseason.

Lamb, in his first start for the Warriors and fourth of his NBA career, came out flying all over the place. His strong defense led to offense as well. Along with two steals in the first half, Lamb made two 3-pointers through the first two quarters and made all four of his shot attempts.

The 24-year-old ended up playing 36 minutes and scored 16 points. That’s his highest points total since May 14, 2021 as a member of the Houston Rockets. He also tied a career-high with four 3-pointers. Lamb also swiped three steals and played strong defense all night.

Not to be outdone, Jerome, the Warriors’ other two-way player continued his strong showing by scoring 18 points off the bench. Jerome also had six rebounds and five assists.

Cold Poole

The target on Jordan Poole’s back grew with his breakout campaign a season ago, and it grew with his contract extension over the offseason. On Friday, the Pelicans zeroed in on him with the stars on the bench, and Poole struggled. 

Though he did hand out nine assists and continues to try to balance being a scorer and a playmaker, Poole scored 20 points but was 5-for-18 from the field and 3-for-10 from beyond the arc. Poole also had five turnovers.

In the final three games of the road trip, Poole turned the ball over 14 times, shot 30 percent overall (12-for-40) and 22.7 percent (5-for-22) on 3-pointers. Whether it’s rotation changes or not, the Warriors have to get Poole going and maintain his confidence to get back in the win column.

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