The whacking administered to the Warriors on Sunday was pure and complete, 48 minutes of epic beatdown worthy of the Los Angeles Lakers and their fans reliving whenever they feel the need to laugh themselves to tears.
Though the 117-91 loss was not the biggest margin of defeat for the Warriors this season – that remains the 39-point Christmas Day mashing in Milwaukee – it was, given the circumstances, profoundly more discouraging for Golden State.
Milwaukee occurred in Week 1, Los Angeles is more than two months later.
“We were just never in the game,” coach Steve Kerr said in a postgame video conference. “Right from the beginning we were fouling them like crazy. We had no chance from the very beginning. We weren't ready to play. Just a very disappointing night overall.”
Not even four minutes in, the Warriors were down 10. They were down 15 fewer than five minutes in, down 20 after one quarter and never got closer than 18.
“First six minutes, we put ourselves in a hole,” said Steph Curry, who scored 16 points in 26 minutes. “And they kept the pressure on.”
This is particularly painful considering the Warriors had won three in a row for the first time this season and believed they were onto something good. They were healthy. They also had the added motivation of knowing a victory would clinch the season series against the defending champs.
And their timing was splendid. The Lakers were without eight-time All-Star Anthony Davis, whose absence that largely explains them losing four of their last five games entering Sunday.
But what the Warriors left on the Staples Center floor amounted to basketball malpractice. From the opening tip, they were lethargic on defense, sloppy on offense and consistently inventing ways to exhibit ineptitude. Though they arrived in LA via jet Saturday afternoon, they moved about as they’d made the journey on foot.
“Mentally, it’s as challenge to stay locked in, with everything going on,” Curry said, referring to the effect of the pandemic, from protocols to travel to scheduling and more. “The good teams, the ones that are playing consistently, bring that mental focus. And tonight, we didn’t have it.”
With this insult of a night came, of course, the indignity of injury. Draymond Green, who has been superb of late, rolled his ankle, leaving the floor with 4:15 remaining in the second quarter. He did not return, but, according to Kerr, does not believe it is serious.
The Warriors had better hope it’s not. Draymond’s presence has been crucial to the advancements they’ve been able to generate. Which aren't much.
And this game generally represented the kind of performance that, if repeated while trying to gain ground in the second half of the season, could reveal the Warriors as less determined than they need to be to snag a semi-comfortable postseason seed.
Put simply, they will land in the pit of peril: The play-in tournament. It’s the course they’ve been on for most of the season.
“We’ve been average,” Curry conceded. “We were playing better as of late, trending in the right direction before tonight.”
Before 11 first-half turnovers gave LA 15 points, before 16 first-half fouls sent the Lakers to the line for 26 free throws. Before the Warriors were out-rebounded 30-17 in the first half, 30-18 in the second, which was rife with gratuitous savaging by the Lakers.
Even former Warriors first-round pick Damian Jones, now on his third team since being traded 19 months ago, got in on the LA fun, throwing down a lob dunk in the fourth quarter, which normally would qualify as “garbage time.”
The game, as a whole, was an extended version of garbage time.
With a few more performances like this, the Warriors will have to be grateful for the eighth seed because it’s what they will have earned.