MILWAUKEE -- There comes a point in almost every NBA season where a team, no matter how talented, hits a wall.
The Warriors have hit theirs right as their season reached the halfway mark Thursday in Milwaukee. Golden State's 41st game was its worst performance of the season. The defending champion Bucks dominated the Warriors from the opening tip-off at Fiserv Forum, leading by 39 at halftime en route to a 118-99 win that sent Golden State to its fourth loss in five games.
After a blistering start to the season that had many penciling the Warriors in for a return to the NBA Finals, Golden State has cooled considerably. The offense has been disjointed for the better part of two weeks, Steph Curry is mired in a shooting slump, and the NBA's best defense hasn't been the stabilizing force it was early in the season.
So are the Warriors starting to feel the heat after what some might call a reality check in Milwaukee? Not in the slightest.
“It’s a situation where you are comparing yourself to yourself," Curry said Thursday about the Warriors' recent struggles. "There is never a moral victory situation, we’re not talking about that. It’s maintaining confidence in who you are, what you established yourself to be. We beat some really good teams in this league, we have lost to some really good teams, we’ve got blown out a couple times. It’s the life of an 82-game schedule. But where it gets tricky is there are consistent things that show up night after night, and obviously, we have to correct that sooner than later.
"We want to be able to right the ship as quick as possible. But there is no panic."
How do the Warriors go about righting the ship for a team that is 30-11 and has the second-best record in the NBA?
They aren't about to re-invent the wheel. They don't have to. They just have to get back to the formula that made the best team in the NBA during the first two months. Play suffocating defense, execute on offense, and, perhaps most importantly, get the open shots to start falling again.
The Warriors' defense Thursday night in Milwaukee was flaccid and disconnected. The Bucks picked it apart with ease as Giannis Antetokounmpo got into the paint, forced the Warriors to collapse on him and kicked it out to an array of deadly shooters who probe the perimeter for Milwaukee. The Bucks shot 62 percent in the first half, and when you are taking the ball out of the net after almost every possession, it's hard to get into an offensive rhythm.
Nothing went right Thursday for the Warriors. The Bucks opened the game on a 16-4 run and led by 16 after one. That lead swelled to 30 in the second quarter, and that was all she wrote.
Make no mistake, the Warriors are facing real adversity. They have multiple issues that need to be addressed, from the defensive lapses to the rotation change brought on by Klay Thompson's return. Golden State has to look in the mirror and find out who it really is.
"We tried to prepare for it, but it is an adjustment," Curry said of the new rotation. "As far as where we are in the season, there is no panic because we have time to figure that out for guys to get comfortable. We knew Klay was coming back -- a new starting lineup, Draymond being out has required some adjustments.
"We always talk about breaking this into three seasons. Getting off to a good start while waiting for Klay to get back, [James Wiseman], this period we are in right now where we have to make those adjustments and continue to get better, stay patient and get everybody comfortable with our new chemistry and then a playoff push which by post-All-Star break type vibe where you have to get really dialed in and understand who you are.
“We have shown that we can do it. We just have to stick with it.”
There will be no reprieve for a weary Warriors team searching for answers.
After getting beaten up and down the court by the defending champions, the Warriors travel to Chicago on Friday to face the East's top team on the second night of a brutal back-to-back.
If the Warriors bring the same game they showed up with Thursday to the United Center on Friday, the Bulls could make quick work of them. Blowout losses can often be exactly what a team needs to bust out of a rut.
Thursday was no fun for the Warriors, but it could be useful in showing Kerr what his team is made of and how far they truly have to go to be the team they hope to become.
"It’s part of being a competitor is, once in a while, you get your ass kicked, and it’s humiliating and it’s not fun, and it’s all about how do you respond?" Kerr said Thursday.
"We’ll find it again. Right now, we are a little out of sorts. We just have to weather the storm.”