Warriors' defense again missing in action in blowout loss to Lakers


Warriors' defense again missing in action in blowout loss to Lakers

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.

How Warriors are affected by EuroLeague canceling rest of 2019-20 season

How Warriors are affected by EuroLeague canceling rest of 2019-20 season

While the NBA is inching closer to resuming the 2019-20 season, Europe's top basketball league decided not to pursue the same avenue.

The EuroLeague announced Monday that it was canceling the remainder of its 2019-20 season.

Each EuroLeague team had played 28 of their 34 regular-season games.

Ordinarily, the EuroLeague ending its season wouldn't be news for the Warriors and their fans. But 2020 has been a completely different year for the Warriors. Mired in a 15-50 season, Golden State will have a top-five pick in this year's NBA draft.

That means 19-year-old Israeli prospect Deni Avdija, who plays for Maccabi Tel-Aviv, is on the Warriors' radar. NBC Sports Bay Area's Monte Poole reported at the end of April that the Warriors have traveled to Europe to take a look at Avdija, who could be a top-five draft pick.

[RUNNIN' PLAYS PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

With the Warriors missing the playoffs this season, the team was going to use the unexpected free time in May to go scout prospects in Europe. Coach Steve Kerr reportedly was supposed to go watch Killian Hayes and Théo Maledon, while Kent Lacob, director of team development, was going to scout Avdija. But the coronavirus pandemic forced the Warriors to cancel those travel plans.

Due to travel restrictions, the Warriors likely wouldn't have been able to send anyone to watch Avdija play in the final six EuroLeague games had they been held, but they could have at least gotten more film on him. Now, they will have to form their opinion of Avdija with the in-person scouting they've already done and the film they have on hand.

In 21 games this season against Israel Basketball Super League competition, Avdija averaged 12.3 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 26.6 minutes.

[RELATED: 2020 NBA Mock Draft 7.0]

Avdija hasn't seen as much playing time in the EuroLeague, so his numbers aren't great. In 26 games against better competition, he's averaging 4.0 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.2 assists in 14.2 minutes.

We don't know when the NBA will hold the 2020 draft, but if the Warriors select Avdija, we'll know they saw enough of him before the coronavirus put a stop to basketball around the world.

Michael Jordan-Steph Curry 'The Match' pairing posed by Colin Cowherd

Michael Jordan-Steph Curry 'The Match' pairing posed by Colin Cowherd

Sunday’s “The Match,” featuring a showdown between NFL stars Peyton Manning and Tom Brady along with PGA icons Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods was a smashing success. The event raised $20 million for coronavirus relief in the United States, and was the highest-rated golf event in cable television history.

The access and humorous trash talk throughout has led many to speculate as to which duo from sports could be part of the next iteration of the event. Fox Sports’ Colin Cowherd discussed this on Monday and posed some interesting potential pairings.

"Michael has always let it be known that he's pretty good at golf," Cowherd said. "Steph is easily the best current NBA golfer, that I would pay to see."

[RUNNIN' PLAYS PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Steph Curry tweeted Sunday that he’d like to be included next time around, and sure enough Cowherd first mentioned a duel between the Warriors star and another NBA icon with North Carolina roots in Michael Jordan. MJ was shown to play golf frequently throughout his NBA career during ESPN’s “The Last Dance,” and continues to be a fan of the sport.

Curry is an avid golf fan and was glued to his television Sunday during “The Match.” He’s played in some professional golf events in the past, and always is among the best current athletes at the celebrity-laden American Century Championship each summer in Lake Tahoe.

Given MJ’s propensity to trash talk during his historic NBA career, it’s hard to imagine he wouldn’t be trading barbs constantly with Curry. Steph’s confidence never has been in question and he likely would have plenty of fun going back and forth with Jordan.

[RELATED: Who Warriors fans think Steph Curry should team up with in 'The Match']

Throwing a couple PGA pros in, especially two who are avid NBA fans could make for some great conversation. As we saw throughout Sunday’s foursome, Mickelson and Woods were more than willing to engage and dish out some one-liners.

MJ likely wouldn’t be thrilled about being mic’d up for an entire round with no editorial control. But if both parties would be willing, this would be the most highly-anticipated event in the history of golf.

Plus we finally could settle that pesky debate of which team was more dominant between Curry’s 2016-17 Warriors and Jordan’s 1995-96 Bulls.