HOUSTON -- There was no visible indication of a cold war or hostility between Kevin Durant and Draymond Green on Thursday night. Invisible, too, was the joy of the Warriors, likely collateral damage in the wake of their recent dispute.
For there were times when Durant and Green and the rest of the Warriors looked like strangers playing together for the first time, which led directly to a severe throttling in the form of a 107-86 loss to the Houston Rockets.
The Warriors showed some early defensive tenacity, but for most of the game displayed very little offensive rhythm. They looked like a team in a bit of an emotional fog.
“We’re banged up a little big physically,” coach Steve Kerr said. “And right now we’re banged up spiritually. There’s no getting around that.”
Stephen Curry missed his fourth game with a groin strain, and anytime he’s not on the court the Warriors are considerably easier to defend. Green also is playing through lingering soreness in one of the toes on his right foot.
But it’s altogether likely that the issues between Durant and Green this week sucked some of the vitality from the team.
“It’s impossible to say no. I also think it’s impossible to say yes,” Green said. “It just is what it is. We didn’t play our best game. It happens. If those emotions caused us to lose, then it’s ‘my bad.’
“But we’re not panicking or thinking we’re not a great team. We’re still the best team in the league and we’re going to win more games, a bunch of games and go win another championship. We’ll be fine.”
In falling to 12-4, the Warriors posted offensive season-lows almost across the board: points, field-goal percentage (42.1), 3-pointers (four), 3-point percentage (22.2) and assists (18).
Through their 17 turnovers, they gave Houston 29 points. The three All-Stars combined for 10, with Green’s five the team-high.
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“I was horrible,” Green said. “I just couldn’t do nothing right. A lot of the stuff I saw was plays I usually make. I just didn’t really have that feel tonight. But it’ll come.”
The Warriors believe their mojo will indeed return, because it generally does. No doubt Curry’s absence is a void to big for any individual to fill, but that loss is more acute on a night when Klay Thompson shoots 5-of-16 and Durant is 6-of-15.
“When they’re switching that much (on defense), we tend to run a lot of misdirection from one side to the other,” Durant said. “And they stepped out on those pretty good."
“This team is unique,” he added. “On every single action, they make your best players try to play one-on-one. But it was one of those games where we just couldn’t get enough going. We didn’t shoot the ball well. We just didn’t knock down shots.”
The best of the Warriors (12-4) surfaced briefly in the second quarter, their best offensive quarter of the night. They scored 22 points while shooting 47.1 percent from the field.
They also committed six turnovers, giving Houston 9 of its 22 points in the quarter. Green committed two of his giveaways in the second.
The Warriors ended up shooting better than Houston, 42.1 percent to 40.2. They won the rebounding battle 44-41. They pretty much lost every other aspect, most assuredly the battle of wills.
“It’s a tough stretch we’re dealing with,” Kerr said. “But I know our guys. Draymond may not have had his best night -- in fact, he played very poorly. But I like his approach. He was genuine out there. He was competing. Nothing went his way. But I like where he’s heading.
“And now, with the rest of the team, we’ve got to lift our spirits up get back on the saddle.”
Durant and Green will continue to be a storyline until the Warriors look more like themselves, or least as much as they can without Curry. He’s going to miss at least four more games. Realistically, he could miss six or seven more.
So it’s up to the able-bodied Warriors to revive and carry on. They have about 48 hours before the next game, and they look like they need at least that much time to recover.