The bottom, thought to have hit rock last week in Charlotte, dropped even lower for the Warriors on Wednesday when they came into Chase Center relatively healthy and were handed an “L” by the most dysfunctional franchise in the NBA and perhaps all of America sports.
Cue the rising volume of the tanking crowd.
Losing at home, in overtime, to the Knicks, who were on the second night of a back-to-back set – they were thrashed by 28 on Tuesday in Portland – on the surface makes a persuasive argument in court of public perception to convict on the charge of tanking.
Except there is considerable evidence of a generally respectable effort. Draymond Green posted a triple-double over 39 laborious minutes. D’Angelo Russell scored 32 points, including a game-tying triple that forced OT. Centers Willie Cauley-Stein and Marquese Chriss combined for 19 points, 15 rebounds and six blocks.
On the surface, such numbers appear gaudy enough to send the atrocious Knicks to their 11th consecutive defeat. But the Warriors sabotaged their effort in the same areas as they did last week in losing successive games to the Hawks, who had dropped 10 in a row, and the Hornets, who had lost seven of nine.
The lapses of execution were startling, the inattention to detail indefensible.
The most incriminating moments were those with New York’s Marcus Morris repeatedly finding open shots beyond the arc. He entered the game shooting 48.4 percent from deep, placing him third in the NBA – put undoubtedly first on the scouting report of any team facing the Knicks.
If coach Steve Kerr and his staff had instructed players to let Morris fire, daring him to make them, there’s your proof of tanking.
That did not happen. Indeed, I’d venture to say the troops were reminded several times to stay with Morris, who scored 36 points on 10-of-18 shooting, including 5-of-9 from deep.
“We watch film,” Glenn Robinson III said after the game. “We tried to correct some things. We’ve got to be connected on the same page. Having Draymond out there, he does a great job talking, so we try to feed off him.
“We can try to know our personnel a little bit more. Sometimes we don’t have to fly at guys who can’t it shoot as well.”
When Robinson says “know our personnel,” he’s referring not to the Warriors but to their opponents. Knowing New York’s personnel means not leaving Morris. Knowing Charlotte’s personnel means not leaving Devonte Graham, who was ignored at an alarming rate despite having more 3-point makes than anybody in the league except Houston’s James Harden. Graham scored 30 of his 33 points off 10 triples.
Winning in the NBA is hard, but even bad teams manage to do so 25 percent of the time. It’s inevitable, because there always are seven or eight teams going nowhere and well aware of it.
The Warriors over the past 10 days have played a schedule as soft as nurse’s cotton, seeing five teams among the league’s bottom eight. They are 1-4, beating the Bulls but losing to the Hawks, the Hornets, the Grizzlies and the Knicks, who are widely considered the absolute worst.
“We’re not as talented as most teams,” Green conceded late Wednesday night. “We’re so young.”
As usual, Green was speaking truth. The Warriors, as currently constituted, are destined to lose more often than they win. They will be in the lottery because their roster isn’t good enough to avoid that fate, which obviously comes with long-term benefit.
Losing to this version of the Knicks, barely a shell of a grand vision that included, or so they thought, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, ought to serve as an insult to every player and coach on the Warriors’ payroll.
After trailing by 22 in the second quarter, the Warriors wiped out the deficit in the second half, taking a lead and sending the game into overtime, where they had a decided edge. Overtime on the second night of a back-to-back should have been a direct route to New York’s demise, and also given the Warriors a mild and temporary rebuttal to the incessant tanking noise.
They couldn’t pull it off. And now, seven weeks into the season, the Warriors are seven games behind the Kings and 17.5 games behind the Lakers.
The Warriors do not have the worst personnel in the NBA. They do not have the worst coaching staff. They have the worst record, though, and the last 10 days testify they’re earning it on merit.