Warriors

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."

Warriors consider lineup change vs. Clippers as they seek ruthlessness

Warriors consider lineup change vs. Clippers as they seek ruthlessness

OAKLAND – The Warriors wouldn’t ever acknowledge that they have reached the point of desperation in a first-round series. Too proud. Too accomplished.

But that’s where they are as they approach Game 6 against the Clippers, who have lost three of the first five games but never once shown any sign of surrender.

The Warriors are not necessarily desperate to win Game 6 because, should they lose, they still have Game 7.

They have to be desperate to reestablish the identity they have forged over the vast majority of Steve Kerr’s five-year run as head coach. Talented, skilled, smart, unified and ruthless.

They’re still talented and skilled. They’re generally smart. The unity has become uneven. That ruthless thing, however, has never been more elusive than this season – and it has carried over into the first five games of these playoffs.

So, on Thursday, before the team left Oakland for Los Angeles -- where Game 6 will be played on Friday -- Kerr uttered phrases that serve as euphemisms for desperation.

“Everything’s always on the table,” Kerr said. “Every playoff game, everything is always on the table. We consider everything. We go over every possibility. We hash it out. We ask the players their opinions on stuff and we make adjustments.

“That’s how the playoffs work.”

Kerr said the staff is evaluating rotations and units. Asked about a possible change in the starting lineup, he played coy.

“We could,” he said. “You never know.”

If there is a change, it will come at center. Andrew Bogut, who played so well in Games 3 and 4, struggled in the 129-121 loss in Game 5 on Wednesday. He had six points, five rebounds and two assists. He played 17 minutes and was minus-15 in the plus/minus.

Backup Kevon Looney was, by contrast, effective, as he has been for most of the series. Playing 22 minutes, he scored five points and grabbed seven rebounds, finishing a team-best plus-15.

But the issues with this team run deeper than can be solved with a single change. The Warriors have not been able to sustain the “killer instinct” required on championship teams. They’ve had it in the past, so it’s still somewhere within their collective DNA

They’re often playing it cool, even as LA is running hot. And they’re no more tired, at least physically, than the Clippers.

“I didn’t see fatigue (in Game 5),” Kerr said. “I just saw a lack of urgency, and you can’t win a playoff game without urgency. It’s not that easy.”

The first indicator of ruthlessness is effort. The Warriors brought it in Game 1 and for the better part of Game 2, before they completely and inexplicably lost it – and the game. They hit 10 on the ruthless meter in Game 3 and brought enough of it to squash a Clippers rally and prevail in Game 4.

It never appeared in Game 5.

“When we get a nice lead, we just tend to relax a little bit,” Kevin Durant said after Game 5, which the Warriors never led by more than four. “I’ve said it before, teams are looking for something just to get them back into the game.”

The Clippers didn’t so much as look for something in Game 5 as come and take it.

“More than anything, they played harder than we did,” Kerr said. “Schemes go out the window when a team plays harder than you. Schemes don’t matter unless you compete. I always say it, every year, that the first adjustment you have to make is to playing harder. And then you can get into switching rotations and matchups.

“In LA, we played really hard. In our last two home games, we let our guard down. The one thing you should know from watching the Clippers all years is that this is a competitive, fun team that enjoys playing together. They’re not going to go away. You’ve got to put them away by competing.”

[RELATED: Beverley's grit and hustle has Clips on Dubs' heels]

The Warriors in Game 5 met most of their offensive goals. They had 31 assists and eight turnovers. Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Durant combined for 91 points on 49.1-percent shooting. They know they have the Curry/Durant pick-and-roll, and they’ll use it if a boost is needed. But the problem in Game 5, as well as the pivotal portion of Game 2, was an utter lack of defensive focus, execution and effort.

They fixed it last postseason and won a championship.

The Warriors know the formula. Desperate times in the NBA playoffs call for an inspired defense. Without it, even the Warriors are vulnerable.

Montrezl Harrell has message for Warriors after Clippers' Game 5 win

Montrezl Harrell has message for Warriors after Clippers' Game 5 win

The Los Angeles Clippers are feeling themselves, and for good reason.

Given zero chance to beat the Warriors heading into their first-round NBA playoff series, the Clippers have pushed the two-time defending champions to a Game 6 back in Los Angeles on Friday.

Down 3-1 in the series, most expected the Clippers to roll over Wednesday in Game 5 at Oracle Arena. But Lou Williams dropped 33 points and Montrezl Harrell added 24 as the Clippers grabbed a 129-121 win.

After the victory, Harrell had a quick, NSFW message for the Dubs and he screamed it as he sprinted back to the locker room.

"Bring that ass back to LA" Harrell shouted, via The Undefeated's Marc Spears.

Be careful what you wish for.

While the Warriors have admittedly been looking past the Clippers to a potential second-round date with the Rockets, the Dubs likely will be locked in Friday. Golden State has all the firepower needed to smolder the pesky Clippers, and the last thing they want is to have an unnecessary Game 7 because they were unfocused at the task at hand.

[RELATED: Lou Williams thinks Dubs made mistake by looking ahead to Rockets]

Harrell has been an issue for the Warriors all series, tormenting them in the pick-and-roll with Williams. His energy and ferocity have been unmatched by anyone on the Warriors, including Draymond Green. 

But with the Dubs having to bring their derrieres back to Southern California, we expect the Warriors' energy level will be a little different in Game 6.