SANTA CRUZ — You can bet Patrick Baldwin Jr.’s PB&J sandwiches, the Santa Cruz Warriors aren’t just taking the floor to develop for the next level. They want to win, he said.
The Warriors nearly accomplished that goal Thursday night against visiting Stockton, but the Kings stormed to the finish line and posted a 121-112 win in the teams’ regular-season opener in front of 2,476 fans at Kaiser Permanente Arena.
“I think that’s a misconception about development,” said Baldwin, a two-way guard on assignment from Golden State. “It’s developing winning habits. If you come out here and you’re all about getting your shots up, or not playing defense, missing box-outs, that’s not winning basketball. But if you’re down here focusing on the little things, focusing on offense last, that’s winning basketball to me. That’s what I think G League is for me right now.”
Golden State Warriors two-way player Patrick Baldwin Jr. penetrates in the paint to score for Santa Cruz on Thursday. (Shmuel Thaler – Santa Cruz Sentinel)
Baldwin had 14 points, seven rebounds, two blocked shots, two turnovers and a minus-1 rating while on the floor for 25 minutes. Elijah Pemberton scored a team-high 22 points for Santa Cruz (0-1), and center Trevion Williams posted a double-double with 11 points and 13 rebounds.
If the Warriors’ opener was any indication of what awaits fans this season, it’ll be a heck of a ride. The teams were tied 12 times and traded the lead a whopping 27 times.
Santa Cruz led 110-107 on center Jayce Johnson’s and-one field goal with 4:19 remaining, but the Kings (1-0) closed with 14-2 run.
Stockton’s Deonte Burton scored six of his 16 points during that stretch, including a windmill dunk in the waning second after recording a steal to set up his breakaway jam.
Baldwin and Warriors coach Seth Cooper said there wasn’t any ill feelings about the jam. It was 100% earned, they said.
Speaking of jams, Baldwin, the no. 22 overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, revealed over the summer that he’d never eaten a PB&J sandwich. Golden State decided to make a video of Baldwin eating one and it’ll air on PB&J Day on April 2. Side note, Baldwin has become addicted to them since filming the promo, and eats them during his treks between Golden State and Santa Cruz.
Santa Cruz featured a variety of starting lineups late in the Showcase Cup season, when it posted an 8-10 record. The Warriors were still without five players Thursday, including JaQuori McLaughlin, Jerome Robinson and Pat Spencer, who are sidelined by injuries. Cooper expects them to return soon.
The Warriors led in nearly every category on the stat sheet, including holding a 54-38 advantage in rebounding. But the Kings took advantage of the Warriors’ 22 turnovers. Stockton had 15 fast-break points to the Warriors’ eight, and 20 second-chance points to the Warriors’ 10.
Cooper said sloppy mental play proved costly late.
“I thought we really competed and I told the guys I thought we played hard enough to win,” the second-year coach had said. “Now what we need to do is make the simple play and the right play with that. You play that hard and we take care of the ball. We fouled three-point shooters today, we let Deonte Burton get left, to the middle of the court, three times at the end of the game, and just a couple of other coverage mistakes, execution mistakes. We play that hard, but just make simple plays with it, then we’ll be in really good shape.”
The Warriors get another shot at the Kings on Friday. They’ll square off at 7 pm at KP Arena.
On several occasions in the fourth quarter, the Warriors made five-plus passes at breakneck speed, working the ball across the court and back, to set up quality looks at the basket.
Santa Cruz shot 46.7% (43 of 92) from the field and 33.3% (11 of 33) from beyond the arc. Ryan Rollins scored 15 points for the Warriors, Lester Quinones scored 14 points, Dusty Hannahs scored 13, and Johnson had nine points and nine rebounds in 20:20 off the bench.
Stockton had seven players reach double digits in scoring. Keon Ellis scored a game-high 27 points and Trey Burke scored 22 points. Wes Iwundu scored 16 points, and center Chance Comanche had 14 points, 13 rebounds, and four blocked shots. DJ Steward scored 12 points and Jordan Ford scored 10.
Baldwin said the Santa Cruz’s on-court chemistry is solid, and he expects the team to turn the corner soon.
“It feels good,” Baldwin said. “I think we’re slowly figuring each other out. I think it’s like a fright train. I always describe it as a season. You pick up speed as you go on, and you’re tough to stop when it comes time, near the end. I think we’re headed in that direction.”
King’s 121, Warrior’s 112
up next: Stockton at Santa Cruz
When: Friday, 7 p.m
tv: NBC Sports Bay Area+
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