The Golden State Warriors suffered yet another unfathomable loss on Thursday night, this time against the defending champion Denver Nuggets. While a loss to the defending champs would normally not seem like a big deal, this one is because the Warriors blew an 18-point lead in the last six-plus minutes and lost on a Nikola Jokic buzzer-beater from almost half court. One of the biggest talking points after the collapse was Steve Kerr’s usage of Jonathan Kuminga.
The Warriors youngster started again Thursday (he has been starting with Draymond Green suspended) and performed well, putting up 16 points, four rebounds and four assists while shooting 5-of-7 from the field. Kuminga played with force and helped get Nuggets star Jamal Murray in foul trouble. The problem is he only played 19 minutes and didn’t play after checking out midway through the third quarter:
Jonathan Kuminga on not playing in crunch time
After the game, Kuminga said he wasn’t surprised he didn’t return to play in crunch time, which saw Andrew Wiggins get those minutes instead.
“It’s tricky,” the Warriors forward said, per Michael Wagaman of NBC Sports Bay Area. “Since I’ve been here, we don’t have just five guys that we know that they’re supposed to be on the floor whenever it’s closing time,” Kuminga said. “It’s a little, I don’t know how to say it, it’s a little weird. I’ve been here for three years now, I’m used to it. I’m never surprised when I see a lineup change at the end of the game or even in the game. It’s a culture thing.”
While coaching flexibility is a good thing, especially depending on matchups, teams usually have a go-to lineup to close games. The Warriors previously had their Death Lineups (before and during the Kevin Durant era) they could go with to win games down the stretch. But they don’t have anything like that now, and we’ve seen a lot of blown leads this season.
Steve Kerr’s explanation for not going back to Kuminga
Kerr’s explanation for not going back to Kuminga doesn’t make much sense:
Kerr admitted Kuminga was “playing great” but then said at the time he would normally return in the fourth quarter the Warriors were “rolling” and Andrew Wiggins was also playing well, so he just stuck with Wiggins.
But why not go back to Kuminga when the Dubs started to collapse?
Kerr said since the youngster had been on the bench for a while, he decided not to go back to him. Okay then.
Kuminga’s recent run of strong play
Jonathan Kuminga hit double digits in scoring in his 14th straight game on Thursday night, and he has really come into his own starting in place of the suspended Draymond Green. In December, Kuminga put up 14.2 points per game while shooting over 56% from the field. He even improved his 3-point shooting to over 34% that month after really struggling from deep to start the season.
The 21-year-old played a key role in the Dubs’ win Tuesday over the Orlando Magic, going for 19 points, six rebounds and four assists in 34 minutes. So it’s not like Kerr hasn’t played him big minutes in close games before, but for whatever reason he just didn’t get the opportunity against Denver.
Wiggins did play a bit better in the second half against the Nuggets after a bad first half, but he finished with a stat line of 11 points (5-of-10 shooting), three rebounds and zero assists with a team-worst minus-14 plus/minus. The struggling veteran wound up playing 27 minutes to Kuminga’s 19. That just doesn’t make much sense, and fans aren’t happy about it.
Kuminga surely isn’t either, with his comments pointing to a problem with how Kerr is handling his rotations.