An evening that began with a sheer absence of passion and profoundly negligent defense ended in an orgy of self-described masochism in Salt Lake City.
The haters came hard and heavy at the Warriors late Tuesday night, with the hardest and heaviest coming from those representing the team.
“It happens. It’s the NBA. It’s a long season,” coach Steve Kerr told reporters at Vivint Smart Home Arena after he and his team were on the blunt end of a 129-99 pummeling by the Utah Jazz. “The key is always how we bounce back.
“I think our guys will tell you, that was a pathetic effort out there. That was disgusting basketball.”
Informed of Kerr’s description, Stephen Curry barely hesitated.
“That’s pretty accurate,” he said.
“They just outplayed us in probably every aspect of the game,” said Klay Thompson, who provided a few glimpses of sunlight on offense (27 points, 12-of-17 shooting) while giving the Jazz guards plenty of daylight on defense.
This was the Warriors at their worst, comically bad, reminiscent of some of the rock-bottom days under the bargain-basement Chris Cohan ownership and its nondescript rosters and revolving door of coaches.
“Our hearts weren’t in it,” Kerr said. “At this level, if your heart’s not in it, I don’t care how much talent you have. You’re going to lose.”
This was Kerr’s 297th regular-season game as Warriors coach, and the previous 296 passed without anyone -- much less this utterly mediocre Utah team -- so thoroughly shredding the defense upon which they’ve built their elevated status. Utah shot so well as 58.2 percent from the field, blowing right past the previous high in the Kerr era, 54.5 percent by the Nuggets last February.
Forward Joe Ingles, a one-dimensional shooter who would be maybe the ninth man in the Warriors’ rotation, scored 17 points in the first half, draining 5-of-6 shots from deep. He made Kevin Durant look like a totem pole. Check that. Durant deserves all of the credit for that.
“I’ve got to be better. I can’t let Joe Ingles get loose on 3s like that and expect us to play well on the road, especially in here,” Durant said. “I’ve got to start off the game better if we want to win games.”
Durant wasn’t alone in playing an unsubstantiated rumor of defense that ushered Utah to its tip-to-buzzer rout. One game after deploying spectacular individual and team defense to close out the contending Boston Celtics, the Warriors threw their championship rings on the floor and watched their jewelry get ground into the floor.
Every member of the Jazz roster that played, and all 12 healthy bodies did, shot at least 50 percent, with the exception of terrific rookie guard Donovan Mitchell, whose 8-of-17 shooting dropped the team’s percentage down to 60.9 overall and 50 percent from beyond the arc.
It was not much of a surprise that the hulking and deliberate Jazz owned the paint, with a 58-46 scoring advantage, but it was downright shocking to watch the them score as many fast-break points, 14, as did the Warriors.
Such a darkly comic evening wouldn’t be complete if the Warriors didn’t toss the Jazz a few gifts. How about 20 turnovers, off which Utah scored 18 points?
“I asked Draymond on the bench in the fourth quarter if he could remember that bad of a performance we’ve had in recent memory and we really can’t. They’re few and far between,” Curry said. “But we’ve got to understand that every game we can’t show up and expect to win, especially on the road.
“It’s kind of cheating the game.”
Not only did the Warriors cheat the game, they also cheated themselves and their fans that were among the crowd in the arena.
Though they own the best record in the NBA at 40-11, it’s too much to believe the Warriors are going to be excellent, or even good, every night. There are going to be games when the desire to compete at the highest level fails to materialize.
That’s what happened. They didn’t want it. From the moment they stepped between the lines, the Warriors were, in boxing parlance, looking for a soft place to land.
They know it, and they have to wear it. The saving grace is that this was one of 82, and the Warriors are two days away from the next chance to better represent what they’re about.