OAKLAND – Three fans wearing Toronto Raptors black and red were so proud of their team Wednesday night that they shouted out their support in enemy territory.
They stood inside Oracle Arena, where the Warriors are idols of worship, and in the fourth quarter unfurled a Raptors banner while uttering sounds of blasphemy: Let’s go Raptors! Let’s go Raptors! Let’s go Raptors!
“It was weird,” Stephen Curry said Thursday. “But we didn’t do anything about it.”
That sight and those sounds, in that setting, were more stunning than seeing the Warriors used as mops on their own floor.
Those Raptors fans were comfortable because they practically had the place to themselves. Warriors fans vacated the place at such a rapid pace that Mary Babers, mother of Draymond Green, turned to Twitter, referring to them as “spoiled brats.”
There was, to be sure, some truth to her words, for Warriors fans have quickly become so accustomed to winning that they expect it and some don’t react well when they don’t get it.
There will be nights, like the 113-93 loss to Toronto on Wednesday, when the fans don’t get their win because the Warriors don’t bring it. They weren’t engaged early and dug in only for a few minutes here and there before coach Steve Kerr surrendered in the fourth quarter.
“We’re not invincible from getting smacked in the face if we don’t show up and execute,” Curry said. “So, you’ve got to learn that lesson.”
That lesson was taught to the Warriors several times last season. Six of their 24 losses were to teams that wouldn’t sniff the playoffs and as many more were practically given away.
But even when they stumbled into playoffs after a 7-10 finish, the Warriors engaged and went 16-5 in the postseason. They didn’t bother to immerse themselves until it mattered most.
As much as they don’t like to acknowledge the ability to “flip the switch,” there is a higher level of focus the defending champs can summon. They found it last week in Milwaukee and it was the driving force behind avenging an ugly home loss to the Bucks last month.
“That takes tremendous focus and energy,” Kerr said. “And we haven’t had that very often this year.”
They didn’t have it Wednesday when circumstances suggest they should. They’d lost at Toronto two weeks earlier. The Raptors have the best record in the NBA. The game was on national TV. It was at Oracle.
And, yawn, the Warriors were as flat as they might be in a preseason finale against the Suns in Tijuana. There was a similar listlessness in a loss to the Clippers last month. There were traces of it in home wins over the Nets and for halves at home against the Hawks and Magic.
Kerr and his staff are urging more of what the Warriors delivered in Milwaukee.
“We’ve shown flashes of it,” Curry said of. But we haven’t put together a sustained run of game after game playing at the level we expect on the defensive end.
“As much as we’ve built chemistry and an identity – and we’ve talked about it a lot (during) our run – we have to re-identify ourselves this year and put together consistent efforts night after night.”
The Warriors on Thursday practiced for less than an hour. They spent more than twice as much time reviewing video of the loss the Toronto. They saw the lapses that both Draymond Green and Kevin Durant insist are up to the leaders to fix.
But is it not realistic to believe furious effort will be there every night? Well, no. The problem for the Warriors is that they’ve won so many games without it that they, perhaps psychologically, believe they don’t always need it.
That’s how you end up with performances like that of Wednesday night.
“Our fans have seen the highest of the highs and expect greatness every night,” Curry said. “And we didn’t show that.
“I’m sure they had home-cooked meals and dinners to get to and didn’t want to see us getting beat like that.”
Nobody wanted to see it – except for Raptors fans on site.
But it’s going to be visible again this season at Oracle. The Warriors defense of home court has evolved from obsession to flexible goal, and that’s going to take a while to sink in, particularly among their fans.