OAKLAND – It was a popular projection as the NBA Finals, the Warriors from the Western Conference and the Boston Celtics from the Eastern. Made sense in September.
It still could happen, but there is no chance of the Warriors reaching The Finals if they’re going to deliver stinkers such as their 128-95 loss to the Celtics on Tuesday at Oracle Arena.
How bad was it? Aside from five minutes from DeMarcus Cousins, the Warriors played reserves the entire fourth quarter as fans streamed toward the exits.
The Warriors (44-20) lost for the third time in four games, while the previously troubled Celtics (39-26) won for only the second time in seven games.
Here are three takeaways from a game in which the Warriors barely showed up:
From trend to habit
Coach Steve Kerr expressed a note of caution before tipoff, citing body-clock challenges in the first game back after a week-long road trip and the need to execute and the desire to limit turnovers.
Maybe the coach knew something. For the fourth consecutive game, the Warriors started at a snail’s pace while the opponent was sprinting, Boston built leads of 11-0 in the first quarter, 40-24 early in the second and 73-48 at the half.
The Warriors were careless on offense, giving the Celtics 17 first-half points with 12 turnovers. They were also scattered on defense, as Boston shot 63 percent.
Great teams don’t make a habit of early indifference. The Warriors, quite simply, are not playing great basketball. If they don’t fix this, it will cost them.
No ‘D’ in Warriors
Year after year, assistant coach Ron Adams is voted by league general managers as the best assistant the NBA. His focus is defense and he’s good at it.
Or, maybe, he was.
The Warriors were taken to school by Boston’s dazzling ball movement and nonstop player movement. There were times it appeared to be synchronized, with blind passes going to the exact right place, at the right moment. The Warriors kept being befuddled, and Boston kept getting open looks.
The Celtics recorded 23 assists in the first half and finished with a season-high (38). A ragtag fourth quarter brought their numbers down to 51 percent from the field, and 41.2 percent from beyond the arc.
Gordon Hayward, who has struggled throughout the season, scored a game-high 30 points on 12-of-16 shooting, including 4-of-6 from deep.
The Warriors have spent plenty of time in recent weeks talking about playing better defense. They haven’t spent much time committing themselves to it.
Adams had to be the most miserable man in the building.
Durant at his worst
We’ve become so accustomed to efficiency from Kevin Durant that it’s sometimes taken for granted. He shoots, he score, he glides back on defense.
On this night, that KD was not in the building. He was mostly out of sync, scattered and never really found anything remotely resembling his typical rhythm.
Durant was worse in the first half (2-of-9 from the field, four turnovers, minus-16 over 19 minutes) than the second -- but not by much. He scored 18 points but had an equal amount of field goals and turnovers (five).
Much has been made about his relationship with Boston star Kyrie Irving and the speculation related to the two of them joining the New York Knicks in July. There is no way of knowing if that was a factor, but Durant was waaaay off his game on Tuesday.