Jonathan Kuminga shines in tough loss to Nets

What we learned as Kuminga shines in Warriors’ loss to Nets originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

SAN FRANCISCO — As fans all across Chase Center streamed the 49ers’ playoff win over the Dallas Cowboys on their phones and roared at the final score, the Warriors watched a win slip out of their hands on Sunday night.

After leading by 12 points at halftime, the Warriors were outscored 60-44 in the second half and lost 120-116 to the Brooklyn Nets.

Steph Curry led the Warriors with 26 points, seven assists and six rebounds. He didn’t get enough help. Klay Thompson, Jordan Poole and Andrew Wiggins all struggled mightily.

If it weren’t for the Warriors’ bench, this loss would have been by much more than four points.

The Warriors have dominated at home for so much of the season. Not lately, though. They have now lost four straight games in front of their home fans, and now face the Memphis Grizzlies in San Francisco on Wednesday.

Here are three takeaways from a frustrating loss.

Bench Mob

With the Warriors’ stars available again, Steve Kerr decided to go small with Poole starting for Kevon Looney. The starting unit of Curry, Poole, Thompson, Wiggins and Green wasn’t exactly clicking on all cylinders. Luckily for Kerr and the Warriors, the bench kept the Warriors in the game.

In the first half alone, four bench players combined to score 35 points while going 13-for-18 from the field and 5-for-6 on 3-pointers. Overall, the bench scored 50 points and went 19-for-30 from the field.

All four bench players had a positive plus/minus, too. Poole was a minus-13 as a starter, and Looney was a team-high plus-14 while grabbing 10 rebounds. In his two games off the bench this season, he has 22 rebounds.

The Warriors’ small-ball starting five was a minus-13 together. The bench averaged a plus-11.5. It was a tale of two groups, and the result was a loss.

The Maturity of Kuminga

Before missing eight straight games to a sprained right foot, everything was slowing down for Kuminga. The game was becoming easier for him, and it was fun to watch. Over a four-game stretch prior to his injury, all wins, Kuminga averaged 9.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists and a 9.3 plus/minus.

That’s the player who showed up Sunday night at Chase Center. In his two games back, Kuminga has been a winning player for the Warriors.

He was a plus-8 with 10 points, five assists and three rebounds in the Warriors’ improbable win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Against the Nets, Kuminga scored 20 points off the bench and was a plus-13.

Early in the second quarter, Kuminga scored on three possessions in a row. Those points came from two straight layups and a dunk. Watch what a weapon he is in the open court as a pick-and-roll option.

Kuminga took 15 shots on the night, and only two were outside the paint. He missed both. Inside the paint, he was 9-for-13. At 20 years old, he keeps getting smarter with each game.

Where’s Wiggins?

While Kuminga impressed in a larger role off the bench, Wiggins was nowhere to be found. At all. He barely even played in the fourth quarter.

And understandably so.

Wiggins played 27 minutes and scored only four points. That’s his lowest since Feb. 28, 2021 when he scored three points against the Los Angeles Lakers. It’s also only the fifth time in his career he has scored under five points.

He was 2-for-9 from the field, missed all three of his 3-point attempts and only had two rebounds. Wiggins’ performance was one to forget, but also raises some concerns.

RELATED: Kerr theorizes why Poole plays better in the starting lineup

Since returning from a 15-game absence that included a strained right adductor and two illnesses, Wiggins has been way off. Aside from a strong third quarter in the Warriors’ overtime loss to the Boston Celtics, Wiggins hasn’t found his shot. He looked like an All-Star before being sidelined, and Kerr can’t go to him right now.

There is still time, lots of it. But the Warriors have to find the Wiggins they know, the one that they gave a four-year contract extension to over the offseason.

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