It didn’t take long for Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets to assert their dominance over the Warriors on Tuesday night. The 125-99 final score told the story. So did the Nets’ 40-25 lead after the first quarter.
The Warriors simply looked lost and lackadaisical, especially on defense. Durant (22 points) and Kyrie Irving (26 points) made quick work of the Warriors and transformed the entire fourth quarter into garbage time.
“We got crushed tonight,” coach Steve Kerr said. “I just didn’t like our level of competition. It just felt like we were out there for the first half. I actually thought that we would compete harder and play better defense. We didn’t do that. We didn’t get into their airspace in the first half.
“I think [assistant coach] Ron Adams said that at halftime they had 23 points on one-on-one plays. Just felt like we were kind of backing off and they got guys who can pull up off the dribble and score. Both Kevin and Kyrie really just had their way in that first half. The lack of physicality and competition was the most disappointing thing.”
That’s an honest assessment from Kerr, who’s trying to meld together a bunch of moving parts on the fly. James Wiseman looked worthy of the No. 2 overall pick in his impressive 19-point debut, but Andrew Wiggins (4-for-16) struggled along with Kelly Oubre Jr. (3-for-14) and Steph Curry (7-for-21).
Kerr said the offense started pressing and taking bad shots once the Nets opened up an early lead. Curry felt the same vibe on the court.
“I think we got a little frustrated with our shots not falling in the first quarter,” Curry said. “We had some good looks and missed a bunch of ‘em. It kind of deflated us a little bit and that, in turn, took our edge off on the defensive end. Against a team like that, they’re gonna expose you if you don’t apply any pressure or be physical or don’t come with any type of edge on that end of the floor.
“You look up, six minutes left, you’re down double digits. You knew it’d be a tough task if you let them get off to a good start like that. The rest was history.”
Golden State’s other key player, Draymond Green, was relegated to spectator status as he nurses a strained muscle in his right foot. Green wore a mask on the bench, stripped of his abilities to be a floor leader in the middle of the action. Kerr noticed the absence.
“Draymond has been our heart and soul for as long as I’ve been here,” Kerr said. “We need his fire. That was apparent tonight. We fell behind early, we got a little discouraged. … That’s what makes Draymond the player that he is. He is going to inspire us when he’s back. He’ll bring the level of competition up, the level of defense up. We look forward to that.”
Green’s strain isn’t expected to keep him out long and the team hopes he can return for the Christmas Day matchup vs. the Milwaukee Bucks. If Tuesday’s result was any indication, they’ll need him for a win against reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and Co.