Warriors' identity is their defense, and it abandoned them in Game 5 loss

Warriors' identity is their defense, and it abandoned them in Game 5 loss

OAKLAND — Minutes after his team blew Game 5 to the Clippers on Wednesday night, Warriors coach Steve Kerr walked into his league-mandated press conference seething, holding back anger at another subpar defensive performance by the defending NBA champs. 

"Not good," Kerr said following the 129-121 loss at Oracle Arena.

Since training camp opened in September, Golden State's quest for a third consecutive title has been marred by inconsistency, uncertainty and a promise that a championship switch could be flipped. After two image-restoring wins in Los Angeles, the Warriors had a chance to rectify their consistency problems, but like much of the regular season, they failed to finish the job. 

In a game where the Warriors needed superior energy, they came out flat, allowing the Clippers to shoot 54.1 percent from the field. Lou Williams, Danilo Gallinari and Montrezl Harrell combined for 83 points. 

The performance was reminiscent of the sleepwalking act Golden State displayed in the second half of the Game 2 loss,?when the Warriors were outscored 85-58, squandering a 31-point lead. In Game 5, they were outscored 34-22 in the second quarter, and falling behind by as many as 15 points in the second half.  

Wednesday's performance seemed curious, considering the Warriors dominated the Clippers in Games 3 and 4, holding Williams to 28 percent shooting from the field over that stretch. On Sunday, they even overcame a Clippers third-quarter burst to take control of the best-of-seven playoff series. 

"Everything we did in L.A. we did not do tonight," Kerr said. "... And you knew they weren't going to go down without a fight."

Seeds of Wednesday's performance have been sprinkled throughout the season. Following a 10-1 start, the Warriors finished the month of November 7-7. After the All-Star break, they stumbled again, with curious home losses to the Boston Celtics and the Phoenix Suns, who finished their season with the worst record in the league. Each curious loss was met with the promise the Warriors will turn it around, that a switch could be flipped, that they've done this before and turned out OK. 

But Wednesday’s loss again proved that the Warriors, while great, aren't invincible.

"When we get a nice lead, we just tend to relax a little bit," said Kevin Durant, who finished with 45 points, six rebounds and six assists. "I said it before, teams are looking for something just to get them back into the game. If we foul a 3-point shooter or turn the rock over or we shoot a few bad shots in a row, teams get going, they'll build some confidence." 

Prior to the game, a television tucked away inside the Warriors’ training room had the channel turned to Game 5 of the Rockets-Jazz first-round series with a number of players intently watching. For much of the season, the Rockets and Warriors have been destined to collide in the postseason. The Warriors know this and, while not outright admitting it, have looked ahead to the potential second-round matchup. 

"Yup, start with me, I was," Warriors guard Klay Thompson admitted. "I thought we were going to come out and win tonight, but sometimes life doesn't go as planned. We're still in a great position with hopefully only 48 minutes left to close these guys out."

But before a second-round series can commence, the Warriors have to find a consistent focus that has eluded them this season. Just before Kerr walked off the podium late Wednesday night, he was asked by a reporter what the identity of his team is going into Game 6.

Kerr, almost taken aback, let out the frustration he'd been holding for much of the session. 

"What's the identity of our club?" Kerr asked back. "Back-to-back champions.

[RELATED: Bad habits linger in the playoffs]

"Like, we're really good. I mean, we're hanging banners. What's our identity? We play fast. We play defense. I don't know. Maybe we should do an instructional video later, and we'll send it to you."

With the Warriors now on the ropes, it's time for Kerr and his team to follow their own credo.

Watch ex-Warrior Kevin Durant lack excitement at Nets' introductions


Watch ex-Warrior Kevin Durant lack excitement at Nets' introductions

Kevin Durant doesn't expect to play this season, but that didn't absolve him of opening-night responsibilities on Wednesday.

In case you've been lying under a rock for the last several months, Durant has a new team. He's on the Brooklyn Nets now, meaning he's got a new home crowd.

That crowd got its first look at the two-time Finals MVP when Durant was introduced to Barclays Center just prior to tipoff in Brooklyn's season-opening game against Minnesota.

Try not to look so excited, Kevin.

While the apparent absence of emotion might incline one to consider the possibility that Durant is already regretting his choice to leave the Warriors for the Nets, it's exponentially more likely the professional basketball player is just a little bummed he can't partake in his one true passion right now.

[RELATED: Warriors set to take break from greatness after years at top]

He wasn't exactly overflowing with excitement the first time he was introduced at Oracle Arena after joining Golden State, either.

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Draymond Green pokes fun at D'Angelo Russell's defense, offers insight

Draymond Green pokes fun at D'Angelo Russell's defense, offers insight

Warriors forward Draymond Green is one of the best quotes in the NBA. He speaks his mind and tells you like it is.

So when he was asked about D'Angelo Russell's defense after practice Wednesday, Green didn't exactly sugarcoat things.

"Watching him in practice yesterday, I told him, 'Oh you showed me you can defend. I didn't know you could. So that's the expectation now,'" the 2017 Defensive Player of the Year told reporters. "It's interesting because you just never know what's been asked of someone.

"You can easily judge a situation and say, 'Oh man, he hasn't really defended much,' or, 'He's not that good on the defensive end.' But if he's never been asked to defend, it's kind of hard to make that judgment. 

"Obviously, we're going to ask him to defend. Yesterday, he was asked to defend and he showed that he can. I told him that'll be the expectation moving forward.

"Sorry, buddy, you showed it."

Russell had a career year in Brooklyn last season, averaging 21.1 points and 7.0 assists per game.

He did register 3.9 rebounds and 1.2 steals per contest, but he's pretty much universally regarded as a below average defender.

The 23-year-old will be under the microscope this season, but Draymond made sure to keep things in perspective.

[RELATEDKerr explains why rookie Paschall will play a lot for Dubs]

"We don't expect him to go out there and be Patrick Beverley or Kawhi Leonard," the three-time NBA champion added. "That's just not who you are (laughing).

"Just go out and be competitive on that side of the ball."

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