Warriors collapse late in Utah, lose heartbreaker to Jazz, overshadowing bright spots


Malik Beasley has made 85 3s this season. That’s the fifth most in the NBA. He’s particularly potent from the right corner: 44.1 percent, his best zone. You can guarantee that was on the pregame scouting report. But the Warriors’ most veteran available player didn’t protect against it at the night’s most critical moment.

The Warriors led by four with under 10 seconds left in Utah, a non-disaster away from their most uplifting win of the early season, outplaying the Jazz on the road despite leaving the banged-up Steph Curry, Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins back in the Bay Area. But they first needed to avoid catastrophe and they didn’t.

Beasley was just hanging around on the right wing when the Jazz inbounded it in desperation mode. Klay Thompson was guarding him. They’d been instructed not to give up 3s. Nickeil Alexander-Walker raced past Moses Moody, but a layup was fine for the Warriors in this situation. Stick on the shooters.

Thompson didn’t. As Alexander-Walker began his drive, Thompson wandered into the lane and left one of the league’s most dangerous corner shooters open. Alexander-Walker found him. Beasley hit a big one with 7.8 seconds left. Here’s the clip. Watch Thompson at the bottom of the screen.

That first mistake already put the result in danger. Slicing the Warriors’ lead to one instead of two meant that two ensuing free throws couldn’t stretch it back to a two-possession game. But the Warriors were still in a favorable position. They called timeout and pushed it into the frontcourt for the inbound.

That’s when Jordan Poole juked a defender and sprung free for an easy inbound pass. Ty Jerome found him. Poole was the league’s best free-throw shooter last season. This was a presumed safe spot for the Warriors, considering the situation. But Poole held the ball too high, placing it in danger.

“If you know they’re coming, you have to chest that ball,” Steve Kerr said.

Alexander-Walker came over the top with a swipe attempt and knocked it away. He wasn’t whistled for a foul. Kelly Olynyk shielded away the loose ball. It landed with the Jazz. They kicked the turnover upcourt and scored to steal away a win: 124-123. Here is the sequence.

Thompson would later call it a “dreadful mistake” to leave Beasley. Poole seemed to indicate he believes a foul should’ve been called, which is fair. But the two blunders combined to erase what would’ve been an important win without Curry, Green and Wiggins, counter-balancing the whiff against the short-handed Pacers a couple of nights earlier and giving the Warriors a boost before one of the toughest stretches on their schedule.

But the loss doesn’t negate the bright spots. Jonathan Kuminga was the brightest. He continued his recent strong string of performances with his loudest scoring night of the season, finishing with 24 points on 10-of-13 shooting in 30 minutes off the bench.

Nine of those makes came at the rim. Kuminga brought a level of force that most wings across the league can’t duplicate. The highlight tape of his offensive night is below. It begins with a rebound and one-man fast break that end with a shoulder bump to send Jared Vanderbilt into the stanchion, and a layup. Later he powers through both Rudy Gay and Alexander-Walker for separate post-up buckets. He has a flying putback. Then he even keeps Utah honest by hitting a corner 3 when they leave him.

But none of those 10 makes qualify as his biggest possession of the game. That came on the defensive end. In isolation with 28 seconds left, he slides with Jordan Clarkson well on the perimeter, cuts off his drive and then swats away his floater and grabs the rebound, forcing a frustrated Clarkson to hack him, leading to fireworks that ended in a Clarkson ejection.


Kuminga’s recent emergence is about to be put to the test in the biggest way imaginable. Wiggins has an adductor strain that will keep him out through the weekend and possibly longer. He is getting re-evaluated before the Warriors begin a six-game road trip next week.

That means they will face the Celtics on a Saturday night ABC showcase stage without Wiggins, their best wing defender, leaving Kuminga as one of the lone remaining options to put on Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, who are scorching defenses in the season’s first couple of months. The Warriors then begin their trip in Milwaukee, where Kuminga could get a shift on Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Of the three recent lottery picks, Kuminga is beginning to separate himself. But Wednesday was a productive night for the other two. Moody has nudged his way back to the fringe of the rotation with Wiggins out and earned himself some important fourth-quarter minutes against the Jazz, making two crucial 3s down the stretch. The Warriors were a plus-11 in his 19 minutes.

And there was even a James Wiseman sighting. Wiseman was recalled from the G-League to provide frontcourt depth without Green. He opened the second quarter and played five of his better minutes this season. Wiseman had a transition seal and dunk, set an improved screen to free Thompson for a 3, bothered Kelly Olynyk on a drive and grabbed a couple of semi-contested rebounds.

But Kerr didn’t go back to him in a competitive second half, tightening his rotation. Wiseman appears likely to return to the G-League, as Kerr has voiced a belief that 25-30 minutes on a regular basis down there is more productive than the occasional cameo with the Warriors, even if JaMychal Green is leaving the backup center job vulnerable with uneven play.

“James was solid,” Kerr said. “He did a good job. That’s what we asked of him. He came in and did his job.”

The Warriors are now 13-13 with a turbulent eight-game path ahead: Celtics, at Bucks, at Pacers, at Sixers, at Raptors, at Knicks, at Nets, and Grizzlies on Christmas.

(Photo of Kelly Olynyk and Jordan Poole going after the ball: Alex Goodlett / Getty Images)


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