Warriors

Warriors

OAKLAND -- Blame cut a swath through the Warriors locker room Christmas night, player after player pointing finger after finger at himself after they were righteously pulverized by the Lakers.

“I kind of (screwed up) our offense and it kind of messed the flow of the game up, so I’ve just got to be better,” Draymond Green said, after fouling out in the fourth quarter of the 127-101 loss at Oracle Arena.

“I didn’t do anything to help, either,” Stephen Curry said.

That’s what a great team does when it is dazed but not confused. It knows to look inward because that’s where the answers are.

The answer, in this instance, begins with defense.

The Warriors have no chance of finding the best of themselves unless they get back to suffocating opponents at the level that has earned them four consecutive trips to the NBA Finals, with three rings to show for it.

It has been missing all too often this season and, aside from a three-minute stretch of the third quarter when the Warriors trimmed a 14-point deficit to two, it was nowhere to be found against the Lakers, who kept it together even after losing LeBron James to a groin injury midway through the third quarter.

[RELATED: LeBron strains groin, but he doesn't sound too concerned]

 

“They kept attacking,” said Andre Iguodala, who scored a team-high 23 points. “We never really took them out of a rhythm. We never really disrupted their flow. When Bron went out, (Rajon) Rondo kind of took over and took charge and got everybody in position.

“(Center Ivaca) Zubac was great. We never really got him off his position on the block. He missed maybe one or two shots tonight.”

That’s right, it was Rondo, a non-shooter, and Zubac, a 7-foot-1 backup center, who sliced through the Warriors defense.

This was the second straight game in which the Warriors gave up 127 points, both times allowing their opponent to shoot well above 50 percent. The Clippers on Sunday shot 53.8 percent, including a record 78.3 percent from deep. The Lakers on Tuesday shot 55.3 percent, including 39.4 percent beyond the arc.

“I’m trying to think of something really sarcastic and witty to say,” coach Steve Kerr said. “But nothing comes to mind right now.

“They shot 55 percent and scored 127 points on our home floor, so it speaks for itself.”

This is the first time in 363 regular season games under Kerr that opponents hung more than 125 points on the Warriors in back-to-back games.

Worse, this is the fourth time this season that the Warriors have been beaten at Oracle -- the place to which they dedicated this season -- by at least 20 points. The Bucks scored 134 and won by 23 on Nov. 8, the Thunder scored 123 and won by 28 on Nov. 21 and the Raptors rolled up 113 and won by 20 on Dec. 12.

“We haven’t had that in a while, over the last four or five years, really,” Curry said. “The three games we lost at home to Toronto, Milwaukee and tonight where we get blown out, it’s just a tough pill to swallow.

“Just getting outplayed, that’s really it. If we can just develop some consistency, knowing teams are coming after us and playing us a certain way, that’s different than it’s been the last four years. We’ve got to make adjustments, and it starts with us as players playing better.”

The Warriors believe opponents have figured out the best way to defend them, which is to devote the vast majority of defensive effort trying to contain Klay Thompson, Curry and Durant. And it’s true. Teams watched what the Rockets did in the Western Conference Finals last May and are trying to copy that.

But the Warriors have done a remarkable job making themselves easier to defend. When they were laying waste to the NBA, it was less through halfcourt sets than through a defense that forced turnovers and led to a devastating transition game.

There was no way for opponents to defend what the Warriors were doing on defense. The Warriors gave up more than 120 points just twice in Kerr’s first season, four times in his second season, six times in his third and 13 times last season.

The number of such games this season hit 11 on Tuesday and the season is still six games away from the halfway point.

 

The Warriors know what the problem is. They walked out of Oracle looking inward, wondering if they still have the capacity to do what made them great.

Based on the first 35 games of this season, they don’t know the answer. Maybe now, after being subjected to sheer competitive humiliation before millions of witnesses around the globe, they will look even deeper.