The Warriors followed up one of their most impressive wins of the season with one of their most discouraging defeats.
Golden State beat the NBA-leading Utah Jazz, 131-119, on Sunday at Chase Center, then lost to the reigning champion Los Angeles Lakers, 128-97. The tale of two games, ultimately, is the story of the Warriors' season.
"I think these last two games kind of define our team in a lot of ways," coach Steve Kerr told reporters Monday in his postgame video conference. "In a span of 36 hours, we beat the best team in the league with a spirited defensive effort, and then we lost by 31 points to another great team. So, who are we? What kind of team are we? We're 20-20 for a reason."
With Klay Thompson recovering from a torn Achilles, rookie center James Wiseman acclimating to the NBA and wings Kelly Oubre Jr. and Andrew Wiggins still finding their footing in their first full seasons in the Bay Area, the Warriors have taken a step back for just about every step forward this season.
For instance, the Warriors improved to 19-15 -- and a season-high four games over .500 -- last month after a stretch in which they won five out of seven games. Since then, they've lost five out of six.
The Warriors have the NBA's seventh-best defensive rating (109.6), but only the 22nd-best offensive rating (109.0) as star point guard Steph Curry puts together another NBA MVP-caliber season. Their play in the aggregate has amounted to the league's 20th-best net rating (minus-0.6), but that masks their night-to-night rollercoaster.
"We haven't been able to put together consistent efforts with execution at both ends of the floor," Kerr continued. "We're just up and down. We're too up and down, and we've gotta find a way to put together some good games. We've got a really important road trip coming up this week that I think we need to step it up and perform better [on], no doubt."
Outside of hosting the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers on March 23, the Warriors play every game for the remainder of March against teams with losing records. That includes two road games against the Memphis Grizzlies, who are just behind the Warriors in the race for a play-in spot.
If Golden State's remains equally up-and-down in the stretch run, the NBA's play-in tournament is exactly where the Warriors can expect to be after the regular season.