OAKLAND -- I think this might have been said in 2018 (in fact, since I was one of those who said it, I’m almost sure it was), but the Golden State Warriors are once again working toward their degree-of-difficulty badge.
This time, though, it seems all the worse, as the results keep deteriorating and piling atop each other, like Wednesday’s 123-95 crushing at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
It represents Golden State’s first four-game losing streak since February and March of 2013, before Joe Lacob and Mark Jackson even thought of turning on each other. It was yet another worst-loss-in-the-Steve-Kerr era, a game in which they neither retrieved or protected the ball, nor did they prevent the Thunder from doing what they wanted at both ends.
Mostly, though, it exacerbated the realization both within the team and outside it that Stephen Curry was and is the most obvious thing that keeps the gears greased, and that their prospects for straightening themselves out will get only incrementally better until his return.
This, though, was their seasonal nadir. Outrebounded, 61-42 . . . outshot, 106-83 . . . out-field goaled, 51-36 . . . out-threed, 13-7 . . . out-assisted, 29-24 . . . under-turnovered, 10-17.
And no, the Green-Durant thing is no longer an adequate explainer. This is purely about the basketball, which has been this team’s haven the fount from which all other things spring. They are vulnerable, and they know it.
“Things will get better ahead, it’s just hard to get out this slog we’re in,” Kerr said unconvincingly. He knows, too. The Warriors are easy to play because only Kevin Durant is treated with his due respect. Klay Thompson is moved out of his comfortable places with ease, and none of the other Warriors are considered even remotely worrisome. They are shooting a miserable 22.6 percent from three in this stretch (24 of 106), and Durant’s 27 points and 14 rebounds Wednesday night were unusually hard-fought.
And even the comforts of past seasons don’t apply. When reminded that they were 9-1 in the longest stretch without Curry last year, Kerr dismissed the question as irrelevant.
“I don’t care to look back at last year,” he said. "We have a different team.”
Now you may argue whether their depth is being exposed or is being asked for more than it can deliver, but there is no clear alternative to these reversions to the early part of the decade save health, and yes, that very much includes Draymond Green.
Green’s troublesome toe may heal itself sufficiently by the weekend’s games with Portland and Sacramento and Monday’s with Orlando, though the compression of the schedule doesn’t help. Curry’s prognosis is more nebulous, so the learning curve Kerr continues to reference toward Damian Jones and Damion Lee and Quinn Cook will remain steep and unforgiving for the immediate future.
So until then, Kerr will continue to tweak and experiment and gamble and seek short-term solutions to what the team hopes is a short-term problem.
But it is a hell of a problem, at least by Warrior standards. Four losses in succession is one thing (including postseasons, their last one was 552 games and almost six years ago), but the way they are struggling to do essential things is most striking. Those struggles will almost surely continue until the roster reloads itself.
But if it helps, this championship, if it happens at all, will definitely be the hardest one yet.