Warriors face divergent paths after Kevin Durant-Draymond Green beef

Warriors face divergent paths after Kevin Durant-Draymond Green beef

OAKLAND -- The heated exchange that occurred Monday night with Draymond Green still was on Kevin Durant’s mind Tuesday night. He’s not yet in a forgiving mood for an incident he’ll never forget.

Maybe we should say incidents. Plural.

While the general consensus among the Warriors is that Green was out of line with what he said to Durant late Monday night -- it got personal, according to two sources -- there also didn’t seem to be any great surprise.

There were indications that tension had been building, which makes sense. Green is hard on those around him, and everybody has a tipping point. This is Year 3 of Green and Durant as teammates, and there have been testy moments throughout, even though no Warrior was more persistent than Green in recruiting Durant in 2016.

[RELATED: Warriors had to suspend Draymond, and there are many reasons why]

The overriding question now becomes whether this Green-Durant quarrel, resulting in Green serving a one-game suspension Tuesday, is an impenetrable barrier or a mere hurdle -- not only for them but also for the Warriors in general.

Is this the beginning of the end, or simply a new beginning?

Asked if he and Green have had a chance to deal with their high-profile disagreement, Durant played it straight.

“Nah,” he said.

Asked if he believed that day would come, Durant said it would, pointing out that a long season would determine.

[RELATED: KD not in mood for Draymond questions after Warriors' win]

Though several Warriors conceded that they didn’t where this would take the team, Klay Thompson was downright optimistic.

“They’re grown,” Klay Thompson said. “They’ll be fine.

“I love both of those guys,” he added. “At the end of the day, we’re on the same team, with the same goal. And that’s a three-peat. I don’t think either one of them will lose sight of that, whether it’s personal agenda or whatever.”

Durant, for what it’s worth, was off his offensive game Tuesday night. The Warriors scrapped their way to a victory, 110-103, over the very-beatable Atlanta Hawks, but Durant missed 14 of his 23 shots.

“I just didn’t make shots tonight,” he said. “I know I got some good ones that went back rim and rimmed in and out. And I took a couple tough ones. I felt like I should have been 13 for 23. I wish I had some of those shots back. But we’ve got another game coming up.”

That game comes Thursday night, against the Rockets in Houston, in a meeting of the teams that went seven games in the 2018 Western Conference finals. There were hints of turmoil among the Warriors during that series, and Durant surely felt it.

But the Warriors found a way to get past it and roll through the NBA Finals for a second consecutive championship.

They were made stronger by the test they took and passed. Durant understood the value of Green, and that his contributions offset those moments when he’s hard to take.

Durant acknowledged that the Warriors were weaker for not having Green on Tuesday, and he likely feels the same way in the long term.

“His presence has been part of this team for a while, even before I got here,” Durant said. “He has been a huge staple in this organization. It’s definitely weird not having him around and with everything that went down. But that’s what happens. S--t happens in the NBA. I just try to move on be a basketball player.

“I don’t have anything else to do but be the best player I can be every single day. I try not to worry about anything else.”

Asked if this latest test will make them stronger, Durant had a quick response.

“Who knows?” he said. “We’ll see.”

This season just got tougher. Can the Warriors remain at the top? Given their general professionalism, what’s at stake and the competitors involved, it would be foolish to bet against them.

Warriors thought they had found consistency, but it vanished in Mavs loss

Warriors thought they had found consistency, but it vanished in Mavs loss

OAKLAND - Less than a week ago, the Warriors were seemingly out of their post-All-Star Game hangover. 

Following a 4-5 start after the break, the Warriors entered Saturday evening having won four of their last five games. They beat the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets, and crushed the Pacers 112-89, all but alleviating any ill will entering the final 11 games of the season. 

Two days later, that equity all but vanished against the Mavericks, who handed the Steph Curry-less Warriors a 126-91 loss, the team's worst under coach Steve Kerr at home, exposing, at least for a night, the inconsistency that's marred the champs for most of the season. 

"A lot of breakdowns," Kerr said. "A lot of miscommunications or lack of communication." 

With the Warriors in a malaise, the Mavericks jumped out to a 35-16 lead in a first quarter that saw Dallas shoot 65 percent from the field, including two 3-pointers from Dirk Nowitzki. By halftime, Dallas had built a 28-point advantage. More alarming was Golden State's offense, which made just 40 percent its shots, was Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson combined to go 13-of-38 from the field.

The loss dropped Golden State a half-game behind the Denver Nuggets for the top spot in the Western Conference.

Performances like Saturday night have been an all-too-familiar occurrence for a team pushing for its third straight title. Of the team's 11 losses at home this season, six have been by more than 23 points, and three have been by teams eliminated from playoff contention. 

"It is weird, you're supposed to win at home," Green said. "And you expect to win at home. We've had quite a few letdowns this year."

"These late-season games for teams like Dallas, who are out of the playoffs, it's a free swing," Kerr added. "There's no pressure. We talked about that before the game. We knew they'd come out firing and playing with freedom and just letting it loose. I kind of expected a slow start, a little bit of a letdown game, but I thought we'd pull it together." 

Most curious about Saturday's loss is that it came during a stretch where Golden State was playing its best basketball of the season. Entering Saturday, the Warriors were 4-1 over their last five games, holding opponents to just 98.8 points per game, posting a 97.8 defensive rating.

[RELATED: Oracle not an advantage anymore]

Two weeks ago, following the loss to Phoenix, the Warriors stated their goal to was to reach the top seed in the Western Conference for the fourth time in five seasons. But, as Saturday proved, that will require a consistency the Warriors have struggled to find much of the season. Fortunately for the champs, they'll have another chance less than 24 hours, against the Detroit Pistons, to find it. 

"I think everybody in that locker room had their asses beat down," Durant said. "We all did. I know this experience is different with how much winning we've done the past few years, but we still are in the NBA... And guys have been a part of terrible games, along with great games as well, so the good thing about it is we play tomorrow night too."

Roaracle no more: For Warriors, Oracle no longer real home court advantage

Roaracle no more: For Warriors, Oracle no longer real home court advantage

OAKLAND – It’s old and cranky and probably bitter about being abandoned.

That would explain why the magic of Oracle Arena, once the most reliable component of recent seasons – the best stretch in franchise history – has turned on the Warriors this season.

The cloak of invincibility they used to wear like a shield has been shot through with holes signifying vulnerability, the latest example coming Saturday in a 126-91 shellacking under a torrent of 3-pointers by the openly transitioning and largely nondescript Dallas Mavericks.

For all the talk about chasing the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference – which still is probable – and having home-court advantage for as much of the postseason as possible, the Warriors in this game were light on both spirit and performance.

The talk might be appropriate for reasons of identifying a goal, but it is profoundly hollow in the face of reality. With a home record (25-11) that is one game better than the road record (24-12), the Warriors no longer have a real home-court advantage. It has been weakening for a couple years, and now it’s as gone as the easily affordable ticket.

“It is weird,” Draymond Green said. “You’re supposed to win at home. And you expect to win at home. We’ve had quite a few letdowns this year.”

This 35-point loss is, however, the worst in 200 games at Oracle under coach Steve Kerr. And it comes 18 days after the previous worst, a 33-point drubbing by the Boston Celtics on March 5.

The Warriors went 39-2 at home in 2014-15. That’s a home-court advantage. They were 39-2 the next season, solidifying their dominance at Oracle. They thought they might be slipping when they were 36-5 at home in 2016-17.

The real slip came last season, when the Warriors were no better at home than on the road, posting 29-12 records in both columns. That, folks, is not a home-court advantage at all.

The Warriors, coaches and players, expressed a strong desire, to make this season, the last in Oakland and at Oracle, special and memorable. Give Oracle a proper farewell. Go out with a splash.

This was the sixth time this season they’ve lost a home game by at least 20 points. The Bucks (134-111 on Nov. 8) were terrific, the Thunder (123-95 on Nov. 21) were rolling, the Raptors (113-93) were out to make a statement, as were the Celtics (128-95).

But the other two blowouts, to the Lakers (127-101 on Christmas Day) and the Mavericks should be unfathomable, no matter how bored the Warriors might be with the regular season.

“You kind of sensed the energy wasn’t there,” Green said. “That’s kind of normal in a game like that. I didn’t really get the sense we would lose by 40.”

It was 35, but it may as well have been 40, as Dallas led by as much as 43.

The Mavericks, who had lost their last 12 games at Oracle, attacked from the start and never backed off. Nor was this 28-44 team put in its place. Dallas drilled 13 3-pointers in the first half and finished with 21 triples (in 49 attempts), one short of their season-high and tying the Rockets’ total (on Jan. 3) for the most against the Warriors this season.

Houston’s 21 triples also came at Oracle.

What magic?

“It was their offense and it was our (defensive) breakdowns,” Klay Thompson said.

The Warriors lacked verve at both ends. They defended as if they had no respect for the Mavericks and compounded that by shooting 40 percent overall and only 13.3 percent (4-of-30) from distance.

The Warriors were down by 12 (14-2) less than four minutes after tipoff, down by 23 (51-28) less than three minutes into the second quarter. Six different Mavericks made at least two triples, with rookie sensation Luka Doncic banging four and Dirk Nowitzki, in what may be his last season, draining a season-high five while totaling a season-high 21 points.

“I think everybody in that locker room has gotten their asses beaten at home before,” Kevin Durant said. “I know this experience is different, with how much winning we’ve done the last few years. But we’re still in the NBA. Guys have been a part of terrible games, along with the great games as well.

“The good thing about it is we play (Sunday) night, too.”

Well, yes. The Detroit Pistons come into Oracle for their annual visit. They won here last season. They’re nearly as beatable as the Mavericks, as if that matters.

Oracle doesn’t mean what it once did for the Warriors, who don’t exploit its advantages as they have in the past. If the Warriors are to win another championship, we’ve seen enough to know home court won’t be the deciding factor.