Warriors bottle up Hornets to keep rolling

Danny Emerman, The Mercury News on

Published in Basketball

SAN FRANCISCO — By forcing a season-high 19 turnovers and limiting the Charlotte Hornets to 36.4% shooting, the Golden State Warriors held Charlotte to 84 points.

Charlotte’s total was the fewest by a Warriors opponent since Jan. 9, 2022, when Golden State let up 82 to the Oklahoma City Thunder. The result: a 97-84 Warriors blowout victory.

It was sloppy, but behind the dominant defensive performance, the Warriors (29-26) earned their 10th win in their past 12 games. Charlotte’s offensive output was especially stunning considering the league’s historic scoring boom, with the highest point totals in decades.

With a 14-44 record, the Hornets came into the Chase Center representing a definition trap game for the Warriors. Charlotte had won straight. The Warriors were on the second night of a back-to-back. The defending champion Nuggets awaited a game later.

So in their pregame team meeting, Steve Kerr warned the Warriors that they can’t let their guard down. Even while they’re playing their best ball of the season, ranking in the top-10 in both offensive and defensive rating in February, they shouldn’t take the Hornets lightly.

“I said the good news is we’re now good enough to have a letdown game,” Kerr said. “We weren’t good enough to have a letdown game a couple weeks ago. But now we are. We’re playing well on both ends. But this is a natural letdown game.”

The Warriors listened to Kerr, who just before tipoff reportedly minted a two-year contract extension. Not that there were any doubts, but it’s clear Kerr still has the locker room’s ear.

Despite tough shooting, Golden State’s defensive intensity was on point. They limited Charlotte to 15 points in the first quarter, forcing five turnovers and holding the Hornets to 25% shooting from the field. Gary Payton II returned after missing Thursday night’s contest with an illness, adding energy to the defensive end.

Payton wasn’t alone in the effort. Brandin Podziemski took a charge in the first quarter and two more in the second. Golden State allowed just two points in the first four minutes of the second period, but turnovers prevented them from building a lead.


Golden State’s defense led to offense. Back-to-back steals allowed Steph Curry to score five straight points. A tremendous Draymond Green block — after several defensive rotations — turned into a Payton layup on the other end.

The Warriors led the Hornets 43-29 at halftime despite committing 14 turnovers. The teams combined for 26 first-half turnovers, making for the clunkiest half of the season. Charlotte’s 29 points were the fewest any team has scored in any half this season.

Charlotte’s own offensive ineptitude certainly played a part. Despite averaging 115.7 points over their past four games — all victories — the Hornets’ execution resembled that of a G League team. On one play in the third, Brandon Miller flubbed an easy fast break, throwing an errant hit-ahead pass through the baseline. Miles Bridges simply lost his dribble later in the period.

Brandon Miller got going a bit in the fourth, but it still wasn’t pretty. Bridges air-balled a midrange jumper and the Warriors’ 20-point lead was never threatened.

It didn’t look like any other game this year, but the Warriors made sure they didn’t fall into the trap.

In the game’s final seconds, Bridges and Lester Quinones got tangled up under the Hornets’ basket, leading to a dust-up on the court. Quinones and Grant Williams got ejected, with Bridges picking up an offsetting technical foul. Given how the Hornets played, it was easy to imagine frustrations boiling over, especially with Quinones shooting a layup instead of letting the clock run out.

With how ugly the first 47 minutes of the game were, it only made sense that the last 30 seconds were a slog, too.

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