OAKLAND – Kevin Durant drove to Oracle Arena for his Warriors debut Tuesday night, walked in feeling good and quickly got quite the horrific surprise.
The San Antonio Spurs started knocking on the door to the place and didn’t stop until they owned it.
The Spurs barged in and took what they wanted, everything from points and rebounds to wine and shaving cream. And the Warriors, as if bound and gagged, mostly watched helplessly in taking a 129-100 beating.
“A nice little slap in the face,” Steph Curry summarized.
“We got punched in the mouth,” Draymond Green acknowledged before adding the real takeaway line, “which I don’t know if it was quite a bad thing for us.”
This brutal flogging ends talk of a historically great start resembling that which the Warriors managed last season in winning their first 24 games. This puts to rest any cloak of invincibility for which they might have been being fitted, whether in their minds of those of their fans.
The Warriors were mugged on the glass, losing the rebounding battle 54-35, with San Antonio snatching 21 on offense and turning them into 26-4 advantage in second-chance points. The bigger, slower Spurs even outscored the Warriors 24-20 on the fast break.
“I’m sure we’ll be motivated for our next game,” coach Steve Kerr said. “I think our guys were embarrassed. I know I was.”
If embarrassing seems a bit strong, this surely was nothing less than a night of utter public humility. The curtain came up on opening night and there was CEO Joe Lacob shifting and twisting in his courtside seat, like a man getting teeth extracted without anesthesia, watching his Dream Team was destroyed.
“I didn’t have them ready to play, obviously,” Kerr said.
“The first game, you want to come out and protect your home court with the energy of the home opener to live throughout the game,” Curry said. “And we didn’t do anything to let that happen.”
Curry's numbers were not awful, at least not in the grand scheme of things. He posted 26 points, four assists and three rebounds – but added four turnovers.
And Durant, who started the game 4-of-4, delighting a crowd that had visions of 3-pointers raining from above, also submitted a glossy stat line, finishing with 27 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks.
But the Warriors were dragged across their own floor. Oracle Arena has been their sanctuary for two full seasons, during which they posted a 78-4 record.
The best they can do now is 40-1.
“No one is satisfied with the way they played tonight, especially myself,” said Klay Thompson, who scored 11 points on 5-of-13 shooting. “In the long run, this will benefit us. It’s a long season, and not everything is going to be perfect from the jump.”
So, no, the season is not over. Not even close. Remember, LeBron James’ debut with the Miami Heat six years ago ended with an 88-80 loss, followed by seven more losses in the next 16 games.
But it’s always alarming when someone storms into your house, looks you in the eye and takes what they want.
Opening night for the Warriors delivered a painful reminder that regardless of how imposing they might be or how many All-Stars are on the payroll, nothing will be given. Effort and desire, as they discovered, can be more than a great equalizer.
The Warriors now know that victory is not preordained, that if they want the glory and the spoils they believe to be theirs, they will have to prove it. Every night.