The Warriors were playing a team with the second-worst record in the Western Conference, a rebuilding team with youth and inexperience, a team that could have been the perfect palette cleanser for a difficult past week before hitting the road for four games.
Instead, coming off two days off and a long practice Tuesday, it was another game full of searching for answers. Afterward, coach Steve Kerr said that because they are still searching 21 games into the season, everything is on the table.
"The puzzle hasn't fit this year," Kerr said. "We've had a lot of guys playing well, but we may have to think about moving the starting lineup around from game to game depending on who we are facing. I'd still prefer to get something solid, but we haven't established anything this year. We're a quarter of a way through so there is a lot of thought that has to go into this."
Golden State has already used nine different starting lineups this season, tied for the second-most in the NBA. Only the Miami Heat have used more.
Most of the changes were due to injuries and suspensions -- most recently Draymond Green being banned five games and Andrew Wiggins missing two with right finger soreness. But in the moments the usual starting lineup of Green, Wiggins, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevon Looney has shared the floor, it has struggled.
Against Portland, Curry finished with 31 points on 8-of-18 shooting, but Thompson had just two points at the start of the second half before finishing with 11 total, and Wiggins and Looney finished with nine and six points, respectively.
Last season, that starting lineup dominated the league -- outscoring opponents by 145 points, the second-best plus-minus of any five-man unit. But this season, in the 113 minutes those five have played together, the Warriors have been outscored by 25 points. That's the worst plus-minus for any Golden State lineup, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
"I've really been patient and hoping to get our starting unit from the last couple of years into a good groove," Kerr said. "It's easier to play and to coach when everybody knows exactly where they fit in. And role players, it's easier to play a role when there is a set rotation and the stars are playing well so the puzzle fits."
It's easier said than done for Kerr to change this lineup.
He said he "gives a long rope" to his players, especially those who have "been there and done that," winning the franchise four championships.
So, with the starters struggling, the rotation has also become a free-for-all, something Kerr said will continue for the foreseeable future.
"Every night is going to be different with this team, that's what I am figuring out," Kerr said. "What we need each night seems to be different depending on the matchup, depending on how the game is going. It's hard to predict what is going to happen each night, it's also hard to play 10 to 11 guys. ... We don't have roster clarity in terms of who's going to play every single night."
Curry also noted the Warriors' need for flexibility.
"There have been situations this year, obviously lost some big leads because we haven't been able to adapt quick enough in those kinds of games," he said. "It's the same thing with Coach's decisions [that] he has to make on a night-to-night basis."
On Wednesday, Kerr turned to third-year forward Jonathan Kuminga late in the third quarter to give the Warriors life. After sitting the first 31 minutes of the game, Kuminga played the final 17 in a performance Kerr called the "key to the game," scoring 13 points on perfect 6-of-6 shooting. He also had a game-changing steal off a lazy Portland inbound pass that led to Curry hitting the dagger shot.
"It's huge because that's what he's asked to do right now," Curry said. "Everybody in our locker room, the challenge is to stay engaged and approach it the right way. It doesn't mean you have to be happy about it. It doesn't mean you have to accept it.
"For him, the challenge was not letting not playing in the first half, being out of the rotation change his preparation. ... If he didn't stay ready, show maturity with that, we lose this game."
Kuminga closing instead of Wiggins or Chris Paul was an example of the decisions Kerr will have to make moving forward, though Curry did say the expectation has always been the closers will be determined by who is playing well.
For a moment, it appeared Kerr would also close with Moses Moody over Thompson, telling Thompson to go back to the bench after he got to the scorer's table to check in. But Moody would be swapped for Thompson at the next timeout.
The younger guys understand the veterans will get more of those opportunities, a source told ESPN. But, at 10-11 at the quarter mark of the season, everything is on the table for Golden State.
"You factor in the human being, you factor in injuries, you factor in rhythm," Kerr said. "We have not found any clarity. I'm trying to keep my guys going, keep them calm and give everybody a chance."