OAKLAND -- The dynasty didn’t fall Monday night. There were signs of fracture, indicators that all is not well with the best basketball team on earth, but one loss, no matter how devastating, doesn’t topple walls of stone.
There is no question, though, that this loss tore at seams of the Warriors’ fabled chemistry and unity.
They blew a 31-point lead. Gave away a playoff game. At home. To a Clippers team built more on pluck than power.
Though the Warriors lost DeMarcus Cousins in the opening minutes, likely for good and surely a pity for him, his departure is not what invited the catastrophe that was a 135-131 loss to the Clippers in Game 2 of their first-round series.
Asked what went wrong in the worst second half of coach Steve Kerr’s five-year tenure, Stephen Curry didn’t flinch:
“Mainly just our aggressiveness, definitely, our togetherness definitely.”
They fell apart in ways few NBA teams ever do in a playoff game. They begged for defeat, and the Clippers were happy to oblige.
The reigning champs lost, first and foremost, because they continued to commit the sins they’ve evaluated, addressed, discussed, reviewed and vowed to avoid. They lost by giving the Clippers 34 points off turnovers -- more free buckets than any team scored against the Warriors in the 82-game regular season.
They lost by giving up 85 points in the second half, more than they allowed in the second half of any regular-season game.
They lost with Kevin Durant, one of the most gifted scorers to play the game, attempting just eight shots, committing nine turnovers and fouling out in the fourth quarter.
“He had a tough night,” Kerr said with what appeared to be steam coming from both ears.
They lost with 6-of-19 shooting in the same fourth quarter that LA’s star reserves -- Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell -- shot 10 of 14.
They lost with Curry going to the bench after committing his third and fourth fouls less than four minutes into the second half and never regaining rhythm, shooting 2 of 9 in the fourth quarter.
For the better part of three quarters, the Warriors were fortunate to be playing the Clippers, who looked as overmatched as the rosters suggest they should be. The Warriors went up 94-63 on a 3-point play by Durant with 7:31 left in the third.
Late in the third quarter and throughout the fourth, the Clippers were delighted to be playing the Warriors.
“We have those big deficits like that, I don’t really think we can come back and win the game,” said Williams, who scored 29 of his 36 points in 19 second-half minutes. “We just play as hard as we can to give ourselves an opportunity not to get embarrassed.”
The proud champion Warriors, on a quest to “three-peat,” looked, well, shook. The same team, in name, that gave LA five points on six turnovers in the first half gave up 29 on 16 over the final 24 minutes.
Kerr was simmering as hot as he has at any time this season, including the night he and Jordan Bell openly squabbled on the sideline. Klay Thompson seemed stunned but defiant. Durant left the locker room without speaking, and Draymond Green was so disgusted with the events of the evening that he, too, sprinted out in record time, without a word.
“For six-and-a-half quarters, we played amazing,” Curry said, referring to the 121-104 in Game 1 on Saturday. “Had a 31-point lead. The wheels fell off. I know we can get it back.”
Maybe they can.
But no longer can anyone be certain about the Warriors. Blown leads in the regular season were blamed on tedium, implying that things would change when the real season started.
The real season is underway, and the Warriors lasted less than seven quarters before looking like a team far worse than the sum of its parts. Getting it back is possible, but after a loss of this magnitude, how can anyone be sure?