Warriors

Warriors go out with whimper in potential last game at Oracle Arena

Warriors go out with whimper in potential last game at Oracle Arena

OAKLAND — Oracle Arena, so good to the Warriors in the early years of NBA domination, was of no help, and neither was the fans’ roar, which fell to a whimper as the inevitable became obvious.

The back-to-back defending champions were going to lose consecutive NBA Finals games in their house, and Game 4 on Friday night wasn’t even close, a 105-92 loss to the Raptors, who upon sensing weakness in the third quarter went into total annihilation mode.

The Warriors needed a victory to even the best-of-seven series at two apiece, and they were outscored 63-46 in the second half. Worse, they were the vastly inferior team the entire while.

“They deserved it,” said Warriors co-owner Peter Guber, adding a shrug of acceptance.

This is not how the Warriors want to say farewell to Oracle, but if they can’t muster a miracle — such as an active and effective Kevin Durant — on Monday night in Toronto to force a Game 6 next Thursday in Oakland, it’s all they have.

“We need to have KD if we’re going to beat these guys,” one Warriors executive conceded.

With playoff veterans making up half their roster, the Warriors understood the gravity of Game 4. Playing ferocious defense, they owned the first quarter, leading by as much as 11. Klay Thompson, who missed Game 3 with a strained hamstring, was back and stroking shots. The sellout crowd was at full throat.

The Warriors brought back such heroes of yore as Rick Barry, Jamaal Wilkes and Al Attles, whose health problems have prevented him from attending games this season. Hoping to jolt Draymond Green, they also summoned Michigan State coach Tom Izzo. The Warriors were serious about tying this series and putting the pressure squarely upon the Raptors.

The frenzied energy didn’t last. Their compromised roster, with Durant out and at least three other rotation players — Kevon Looney, Andre Iguodala and Thompson — playing through pain, didn’t hold up against a healthy and deep Toronto team.

“We played pretty well for 26 minutes, and then they took control of the game,” Steph Curry said. “It's one of those nights where you play with a lot of energy and you start to build momentum, and then the wheels fall off a little bit.”

No. Not a little bit. Any wheels that didn’t fall off the Warriors were stripped from them by Raptors superstar Kawhi Leonard, who scored 17 points in the third and got 20 more from his teammates, while the Warriors totaled 21.

The third quarter, so often the Warriors’ heat zone, was a disaster, turning their four-point halftime lead into a 12-point deficit and filling Oracle with dread.

That high-velocity first quarter, which had the room rocking, was ancient history.

“It sucks really bad,” said Green, who finished one assist short of a triple-double. “You just try and do whatever you can to change it. Get a stop, get a bucket, get some momentum. Every time we did, they answered.”

That has been the tendency of these Raptors. They’re not the Raptors of old, who “wouldn’t even be here,” according to one Warrior. This team leans on the experience and cold-blooded consistency of Leonard, and he has delivered. His second half -- 22 points, seven rebounds, three steals and two assists -- is a wonderful complete game by most standards.

When Leonard, who finished with 36 points, wasn’t scorching the nets, backup center Serge Ibaka, with 20 points in 22 minutes, was dunking and roaring and posing.

Falling behind by 16 in the fourth quarter and getting no closer than eight, the Warriors never came close to putting together the kind of run that might shake the Raptors.

“It's not a good feeling right now, but we’ve been on both sides of it,” Curry said. “And for us, it's an opportunity to flip this whole series on its head. And you’ve got to do it one game at a time. It sounds cliché, but for us, that's literally the only way we're going to get back in this series is give everything we got for 48 minutes, everybody that sets foot on that floor in Game 5.

“In our locker room, we're talking about believing. Everybody out there believes that we can get this done. We got to — we can draw on those experiences that we had back in the day and see what happens.”

[RELATED: Warriors hope to reverse '3-1' jokes with Finals comeback]

The Warriors now have a single goal, to bring the series back to Oracle.

The truth, however, is that the Oracle mystique, so real in the first two seasons under coach Steve Kerr, has been gone since 2017. It has not been there in these playoffs, and it was not there in Games 3 and 4 of The Finals.

Romanticizing Oracle won’t make it magical, and the current roster will have to overachieve to get back in the series. The reasons the Warriors are one loss from the offseason are real, and only one of them is the absence of Durant. The others are the team from Canada.

How die-hard Warriors fans can stay optimistic during trying season

ask_kerith_toyota_web.jpg
NBC Sports Bay Area

How die-hard Warriors fans can stay optimistic during trying season

Editor’s note: Kerith Burke, NBC Sports Bay Area’s Warriors reporter, will take you inside the Dubs as only she can each Friday with the Ask Kerith Mailbag. Send her a question on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #askkerith

Tip-Off

The Celtics are in town, bringing an NBA-best 9-1 record to Chase Center. Three players will be out with broken hands: Steph Curry, Damion Lee, and Boston forward Gordon Hayward, who is expected to be out for six weeks out after undergoing surgery. 

Every team deals with injuries over the course of a season. Some teams get bit, others get shark-attacked. It feels like Jaws chomped off half the Dubs roster. Only four Warriors have been healthy for every game this season: Glenn Robinson III, Marquese Chriss, Jordan Poole, and Ky Bowman. 

The season marches on. There is no pity from competitors. When no one cares about your hardship, you can only turn inward for strength. The Warriors must play with purpose.

Game on!

@Nas_Isms #askKerith besides the awful start to the season and Steph injury, what questions should we be asking and why should die hard fans remain optimistic? Asking for a friend ....

Young players are getting big minutes. That’s important to their development. I was thinking about Jordan Bell when I saw him in Minnesota. If he were on this team, this season, I wonder what his growth would have been like. 

The Warriors are 2-10. The expectations are different this season, which means they can play and make mistakes and watch film and repeat. They always are building chemistry. And when the wins aren’t coming, players learn the tough lesson that outside voices can be mean. They learn to tune out the voices that don’t matter and rely on each other. Those bonds will pay off.

I truly believe the losses this season will add up to a mentally stronger, been-through-the-fire confidence, coupled with invaluable experience on the floor. The best learning comes from doing.

This organization also is a sound place to play. I don’t know that the attitudes would be as positive if the structure in place to weather a down year wasn’t solid. Top to bottom, the Warriors have good leaders and a long-term vision. I hope die-hard fans are seeing the big picture too. 

@em_nera What is the atmosphere around the locker room ? We had some "encouraging" losses so hopefully the guys are holding their heads up.

Film study helps. When a player sees examples of a good sequence, or a good move they’ve been working on, it clicks. Measuring progress is important.

Film study also illuminates weak spots. This is going to be a year of study. The guys understand that. 

Steve Kerr has been talking about the realities of the season AND the need to play their best every night to close out some of these games. Yes, the Warriors are frequently outmanned and outmatched, but how much will they allow that to be a crutch? Protect the ball, rebound, take smart shots. These are all things they can control no matter who is on the floor. 

From what I see, the players still have their heads up. No one likes to lose. They have fight. You’re right that there have been enough encouraging moments to keep the right attitude and press on. 

@ClarissaSchreed #askKerith If the Warriors are unfortunate enough to lose more players to injury, do at some point they have to forfeit games?

I heard Bob Fitzgerald mention this on the broadcast: Teams need 8 active players to begin a game, and they must finish the game with at least 5 players. 

@Jwonder64 I would like to know why they got rid of Alfonso McKinney and Quinn Cook
@JoannaB27032700 Me too 

The Warriors didn’t get rid of anyone like these guys were trash to the curb. Alfonzo’s story was unfortunate circumstance, and Quinn Cook was a free agent. 

Alfonzo went into this season believing he could be a starter since Klay Thompson was injured. Then, during the course of the preseason, injuries to Kevon Looney and Willie Cauley-Stein put the Warriors in a tough spot where they needed size. They waived Alfonzo, who had a non-guaranteed contract, to sign Marquese Chriss. There are more details here. Alfonzo landed with the Cavaliers.

Quinn had an offer from the Warriors, but they rescinded that offer for financial reasons when the D’Angelo-for-KD deal went down. Now Quinn plays for the Lakers, his favorite team as a child

@Jon_in_SoCal Draymond is such a smart player. Is there a chance he would go back to Michigan State and coach?

Draymond has the aptitude to do whatever he wants in basketball, and Draymond The Coach is a cool idea. He’s already a coach on the floor. I also think the degree of teaching he’s doing this season and the patience it requires would be something he could draw upon in the future. This is all very hypothetical right now, but if an alumnus with Draymond’s pedigree were interested in the job, I bet MSU would hire him immediately. 

I’ll keep this question in mind when Draymond goes to MSU for his jersey retirement ceremony in January. When he’s back with his Spartan family, I bet he’ll have a soft spot for wandering down this avenue in his mind. 

Draymond is so successful, any avenue could be his: Coach, front office, broadcaster, businessman. He’s earned whatever he wants next. 

@3athalete Curious in your take on last season vs this season with travel, fans, media frenzy or lack thereof.

Steph’s warm-up routine used to be must-see-TV. It’s not a stretch to say thousands of fans got to games early for a glimpse of the show. This season there is a noticeable difference. Where is everyone?

Warriors fans are still showing up, but it’s a smaller crowd. That’s expected when Steph’s not traveling. When kids wait in the lobby at the team hotel, it’s sad to see their faces when it dawns on them Steph, Klay and others are not there. 

On the flip side, the fans who come to warm-ups or hang out for autographs know everyone by name. There’s less of a frenzy but the ones who remain are true. 

As I mentioned in the last mailbag, the dip in national media covering the Warriors means the regular beat folks can get more one-on-one time with the players. Expect some great stories this season. 

@slowdowwn Hey @KerithBurke what is that block that some of the players put on their chair when they are on the bench? And what is it for? Are there health benefits to it? #AskKerith

The block is a thick foam cushion to make sitting more comfortable. The seats on the bench are folding chairs with a little padding, but when have folding chairs been nice to sit on for an extended period of time? Never!

The blocks help the players sit in a more natural position. I remember when Kevin Durant would sit without a block, his knees would be up to his elbows. There are some therapeutic benefits to sitting higher. 

High Five

Thanks to Eric Paschall for coming on our Warriors Insider podcast, which you can find here or the usual places, like Apple and Spotify. It was a long talk, and I feel thankful we got to know him better. He’s a confident person. 

The first podcast episodes Logan Murdock and I did with Kelenna Azubuike and Paschall were under the Warriors Insider banner, but we have a new name coming out and our own direction to go. Stay tuned!

Follow Kerith on Twitter @KerithBurke and on Instagram @warriorskerith, and, of course, watch her on NBC Sports Bay Area’s Warriors coverage all season. 

Why LeBron James didn't win his rivalry with the Warriors in any way

Why LeBron James didn't win his rivalry with the Warriors in any way

Another day, another crazy comment on the Internet.

On Thursday morning, Robin Lundberg of Sports Illustrated said the following after LeBron James and the Lakers throttled the injury-riddled Warriors on Wednesday night:

"In a way, LeBron James won his rivalry with the Warriors. Sure, he was just 1-3 against them in the Finals. But with the Dubs done and the Lakers looking like contenders, it appears his dynasty has outlasted theirs -- which is something that once seemed unimaginable, considering James was in the midst of a fifth straight Finals trip when they first met, and since a 73-win team added KD before the rubber match.

"And what James said about missing Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love in 2015 has some validity. Of all their meetings, none will have the meaning of 2016. The comeback from 3-1 to vanquish what would have been the greatest season in NBA history must still sting in a way LeBron losing with Matthew Dellavedova as his wingman won't.

"And I don't think anyone believed it was reasonable for James to conquer Golden State plus Durant after that. Now the Warriors are in the lead for the lottery while the Lakers are on top of the West with LeBron on an early MVP campaign and leading the league in assists."

First and foremost -- the Warriors beat LeBron and the Cavs in the NBA Finals three times out of four. So no -- in no way, shape or form did LeBron win his rivalry against Golden State.

We could just end this article right now, but let's continue a little longer.

Yes, LeBron is off to a terrific start this season and the Lakers are rolling at 9-2.

But what if Los Angeles doesn't win the championship this year? We have no clue how things are going to play out.

Even if the Lakers ultimately win the 2020 title, it will not be an indictment whatsoever on the Warriors, who have been decimated by injuries.

[RELATEDLeBron, other NBA stars respond to D-Lo's dunking IG post]

Now, it would be a different story if a healthy Lakers team beat a healthy Warriors team in the playoffs, but that won't be happening this season.

Hopefully, we get to see a Warriors-Lakers matchup sometime in May 2021. That would be great for the NBA and basketball fans everywhere, and actually could be used as "evidence" when discussing the "LeBron-Warriors rivalry."

Until then, it's silly to make any sort of judgments.

Follow @DrewShiller on Twitter and Instagram