Warriors

Warriors need to remember wretched loss to Clippers

Warriors need to remember wretched loss to Clippers

OAKLAND -- An uncharacteristic mixture of puzzlement, indignation and exasperation occasionally flared up among the Warriors during the game Wednesday night and surely was present in their locker room afterward.

They’ve lost at home to vastly inferior teams before -- the Hornets, Nuggets and Kings, to name three -- but this 125-106 loss to a shadow of a Clippers team they’d beaten 12 consecutive times, including last week in LA, seemed particularly annoying.

It felt as if the Warriors knew this was more than the absences of Stephen Curry, who was sidelined by injury, and Klay Thompson, who was designated for rest.

As unsettling as it was that Lou Williams scored 50 points, there was much more that was off-note.

“Our spirit wasn’t right, our energy wasn’t right and we weren’t connected and they were,” coach Steve Kerr said.

“The Clippers came in here, probably insulted that we were resting Klay, and then Steph goes down and so the game changes. They came in and just kicked our ass.”

That was Kerr’s point of view and he properly included himself among those most responsible for this soggy paper bag of a performance, notably in the second half.

Others, however, differed on the cause.

“I wouldn’t say our spirit was bad at all,” countered Kevin Durant, whose climb past the 20,000-point career milestone was soured by the loss.

“I thought we were fine,” Draymond Green said. “But maybe I was wrong. I don’t know.”

Fine? No. We’ve seen the Warriors when they’ve been “fine,” and this was not it. When they’re fine, they annihilate opponents. When they’re “fine,” they crush teams such as that which they faced Wednesday.

Instead, they spent a half exchanging leads with a 12-point underdog even with Curry and Thompson out. The Warriors could not separate from a Clippers team missing four starters, two of which were replaced by players recalled from the G-League and would still be with the Agua Caliente Clippers if not for a season-altering spate of injuries in LA.

“This is the NBA,” Andre Iguodala said. “You’ve got to respect your opponent -- not that we didn’t.”

Hmm. There were times when it looked as if maybe the Warriors weren’t suitably respectful toward a roster thick with guys they’ve hardly heard of, much less know. Point guard Juwun Evans was plus-17 in 36 minutes. Cal product Tyrone Wallace scored 22 points in 34 minutes and was plus-20.

Both Evans and Wallace were plying their trade in the G-League, Wallace as recently as last week. Yet this bunch more than did their part to support Williams

The Warriors were outshot, overall and from beyond the 3-point arc. They were outmuscled, outrebounded and outworked. And, shockingly, outsmarted.

And they were terrorized by Williams, the 6-foot-1 shooting guard who spent the evening massaging their defense, including a 27-point third quarter that was the most points the Warriors have allowed to anyone in a quarter since Brandon Jennings strafed them for 29 on Nov. 14, 2009.

“I’m not surprised,” said Iguodala, a normally solid defender who failed as miserably as everyone else trying to contain Williams.

“You see him, how he gets going, you should probably switch the coverage,” Green said of Williams. “But we didn’t. He’s been on a tear, so it’s not like we weren’t expecting him to get going.

“We have to take more pride in 1-on-1 defense. If we get a guy going like that, we still need to probably make some adjustments, which we didn’t do a great job of tonight.”

It wasn’t just Williams, though, that punished the Warriors. The Clippers, with starters Blake Griffin and Danilo Gallinari and Austin Rivers and Patrick Beverley all out of service, shot 49.5 percent. Their bench -- Montrezl Harrell, Sam Dekker, Sindarius Thornwell, Willie Reed and Wallace -- shot 54.5 percent.

After Durant scored his 20,000th point late in the first quarter, the Warriors were outscored 70-44, which left Clippers coach Doc Rivers crowing about how “we scored every time down the floor with motion and movement.”

Owning the best record in the league does not make the Warriors immune to wretched performances such as this. This was, thankfully for them, only one of 82 and as Green pointed out it’s not realistic to expect the same intensity every night.

But this is a loss that ought to jab at their gut for a while. It’s one they’d best remember and let sting for a bit before filing it away for good.

When a champion comes apart, at home, against perhaps the most comprehensively weakened team in the league -- and the postgame observations vary dramatically -- it seems appropriate that all involved should talk with and amongst themselves.

Warriors reminded of Stephen Curry's importance in Game 4 loss to Spurs

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AP

Warriors reminded of Stephen Curry's importance in Game 4 loss to Spurs

SAN ANTONIO -- The Warriors were comfortable going into the first round of the playoffs without Stephen Curry. Logic dictated they would prevail with relative ease against a Spurs team without Kawhi Leonard.

And after winning each of the first three games by double digits, a sweep seemed probable as the Warriors approached Game 4 on Sunday.

But they were out of sorts from the start, undoing their cause with a cascade of turnovers and uncharacteristically poor shooting. They did a lot wrong in in a 103-90 loss, but much of it could have been righted by the presence of Curry.

The potential closeout game was the first time in the series that Curry was missed in a massive way. He’s still a week or more away from returning, but the Warriors are smart enough to know their margin for error shrinks considerably when he’s not on the court.

It was profoundly evident, once again, on Sunday that when Curry is out, the game becomes harder for his teammates, and the Warriors could not fill the scoring void.

Kevin Durant made a valiant effort, scoring a game-high 34 points, but was 12-of-28 from the field. The 28 attempts are more than he has had in all but two of 151 games since he joined the Warriors.

“They did a good job of being physical with us on our movement and taking us out of some of our actions,” Durant said.

Klay Thompson, incredible through the first three games, was contained as much by the shortcomings of the Warriors’ offense -- too many possessions with poor ball movement and too few transition opportunities -- as a more tenacious San Antonio defense. Under the added pressure, he was 4-of-16 from the field.

“When we don’t execute, it’s harder for Klay to get open looks,” coach Steve Kerr said. “Where do you take 16 shots? I only remember two or three of them open. When we play the way we normally do, when we defend with a purpose, when the ball moves, Klay tends to get more open looks.”

Thompson also gets more open looks when Curry is on the floor drawing opposing defenses like a magnet. Multiple defenders routinely cheat toward him, and the result is an open look for a teammate.

Without him, and with the Spurs boosting their physicality, the Warriors struggled to score. In the 66 postseason games since Kerr arrived, only twice have the Warriors failed to crack 90 points, most recently in losing Game 7 of The Finals in 2016.

Game 4 on Sunday represents the first time in 21 postseason games, since Durant’s arrival, that the Warriors did not reach 100 points.

Draymond Green was 4-of-14 from the field. Andre Iguodala was 0-of-3. The starting lineup shot 34.3 percent (23 of 67) and the team as a whole was at 37.8 percent, its lowest since the 2016 Finals.

“They definitely pressured a lot at the start of the game,” Draymond Green said. “But we eventually got through that.

“But you got to give them a lot of credit. They came out and they probably played with more intensity this game than they did the entire series and they were able to get a win.”

This was only one game, one loss in a game they surely wanted to win. But it put a spotlight on the vulnerability of the Warriors without Curry.

If the Spurs, even for one game, can lock up the Warriors -- with help from the Warriors, of course -- the Pelicans, with defensive aces Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday, surely long for a couple shots at the champs without Curry, whose status for the next round is in question.

The Warriors are a great team, a championship team. The Curry effect, however, is necessary for the Warriors to win it all this season. This loss is a stinging rebuttal to the argument that they don’t need him to do so.

Will Warriors sweep Spurs for second straight postseason?

Will Warriors sweep Spurs for second straight postseason?

SAN ANTONIO -- The Warriors will try to complete a four-game sweep here for the second consecutive postseason when they face the Spurs on Sunday afternoon at AT&T Center.

Pregame coverage on NBC Sports Bay Area begins at 11:30 a.m., with postgame coverage immediately after the final horn. The game telecast is on ABC.

Though the Warriors have dominated the series thus far, winning all three games by double digits, they expect the Spurs, still reeling from the death of coach Gregg Popovich’s wife, Erin, to put up a spirited fight to avoid elimination. Popovich missed Game 3 and also will miss Game 4.

BETTING LINE

Warriors by 7

MATCHUP TO WATCH

JaVale McGee & Co. vs. LaMarcus Aldridge: Aldridge is San Antonio’s horse and he must have a stellar game to give his team any chance of winning. The Spurs have tried several tricks to get him going, with success only in Game 2, when Aldridge scored 34 points. The Warriors will start McGee, who will alternate with their platoon of big men in trying to contain Aldridge.

INJURY REPORT

Warriors: G Shaun Livinston (L ankle sprain) is listed as probable. G Stephen Curry (L MCL sprain) and G Pat McCaw (lumbar spine contusion) are listed as out.

Spurs: F Kawhi Leonard (return from injury management) is listed as out.

SERIES TO DATE

Game 1: Warriors 113, Spurs 92 Game 2: Warriors 116, Spurs 101 Game 3: Warriors 110, Spurs 97

GAME OFFICIALS

Scott Foster (crew chief), Tony Brothers, Brian Forte, Dedric Taylor (alternate)

SERIES HISTORY

The Warriors won three of four in the regular season, 112-92 on Nov. 2 at San Antonio, 122-105 on Feb. 10 in Oakland and 110-107 on March 8 in Oakland before losing 89-75 on March 19 in San Antonio. The Warriors swept the Spurs in the 2017 Western Conference Finals. The Warriors are 14-6 (including postseason) against San Antonio in the Steve Kerr era.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

SPURS ENGAGEMENT LEVEL: As if the loss of Erin Popovich was not enough to weigh down their hearts, the Spurs also are staring at the kind of deficit no team has overcome. How far can pride carry an overmatched team? Do they have the grit to summon their best under such adverse conditions?

WARRIORS IN THE MOMENT: Being so dominating in the first three games and already aware that their second-round opponent will be New Orleans, the Warriors will have to fight off overconfidence. Can they stay focused for 48 minutes against a team they’ve beaten seven consecutive times in the postseason?

THE ARC: Through three games, the Warriors have been riding their defense and letting the offense come as a result. The Spurs lack a naturally potent offense and further diminished by their inability to make 3-pointers. The Warriors have held them to 24.1-percent shooting from deep. It’s tough to win like that.