Draymond Green's five-game suspension was always going to present issues for the Golden State Warriors, but the loss of the former Defensive Player of the Year has been compounded by another concern on Thursday night.
The 33-year-old was suspended by the league after his chokehold on Minnesota Timberwolves' center Rudy Gobert on Tuesday, leaving the Warriors without their best defender. Now to make matters worse, the franchise will be without their best perimeter defender, Gary Payton II, after the 30-year-old went down with an ankle injury during the second-quarter of Thursday's loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Golden State Warriors put up a meek defensive effort against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the absence of Draymond Green and an injury to Gary Payton II in the second-quarter.
Payton landed awkwardly on his left ankle after being fouled by Thunder big man Chet Holmgren on a layup attempt. He attempted to play on over the following few posessions, but was clearly struggling and was eventually subbed out at the next dead ball.
Payton immediately went down to the tunnel and back to the locker room, before the franchise quickly ruled him out for the remainder of the game. Without arguably their two best defenders, Golden State provided little resistance to an OKC team that poured in 128 points on over 50% shooting from the floor and nearly 60% from three-point range.
Asked about Payton's injury in the post-game, head coach Steve Kerr did provide some positive assurance, stating that the "X-rays were negative, that's all I heard. I'm not sure about Saturday."
Payton has since been ruled out of Saturday’s matchup with the Thunder with what’s been labelled as a foot sprain. Kerr was left to lament his team's defensive effort against the young OKC outfit. The visitors made 19 of their 32 three-point attempts, which included 7-7 shooting from guard Isaiah Joe off the bench.
"“We got to be grittier, we’ve got to show more spark and energy defensively. We got to put a better fight, it just felt like they got anything they wanted. We had a lot of miscommunication on pick-and-roll coverages,” Kerr said. “Anytime you’re re in a rut like this, I mean we’re obviously in it right now, five losses in a row. When you’re in that state, there’s only one way out and that’s to dig your way out and fight and compete.”"
The Warriors have now given up a combined 267 points against the Thunder in two outings. On this occasion, two-time MVP Stephen Curry wasn't available to save them as he did with a game-winning layup in OKC earlier in the month.
Golden State will now have to quickly find a way to limit the Thunder's dearth of scoring and shooting options. Perhaps most concerningly, OKC's two huge outings against the Warriors have come without much input from star guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. The Canadian was out with injury in the teams' first meeting, while he was kept to just 6-21 shooting on Thursday night.
With Payton joining Green on the sidelines, the Warriors may find it a difficult task to find the requisite stops to enable them to snap their five-game losing streak.