Warriors have hit rock bottom but there’s time to recover originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay area
SAN FRANCISCO – In a season with an ever-expanding portfolio of abysmal performances, it was on a damp Tuesday night that the Warriors stumbled into the abyss.
All things considered, this 125-113 loss to the threadbare remnants of the reeling Phoenix Suns feels like rock bottom not only for this wildly uneven season but perhaps for all of Steve Kerr’s eight-plus-year run as head coach.
The Warriors were positioned for motivation, coming off consecutive losses to teams loitering in the Eastern Conference basement, playing at home and benefitting from the anticipated emotional lift that comes with the return of Stephen Curry.
Moreover, the defending champions were facing a rival team, the Phoenix Suns, missing four starters – All-Star guards Chris Paul and Devin Booker, center Deandre Ayton and forward Cam Johnson – as well as top reserves Cameron Payne and Landry Shamet.
And Golden State laid an egg of such corpulence it barely fit inside Chase Center.
“I clearly didn’t have our guys ready to play, and that’s my fault,” Kerr said. “I’ve got to do a better job of giving them the slap in the face that Phoenix gave us in the first quarter.”
When the Warriors took a 26-21 lead on Klay Thompson’s 3-ball with 2:23 left in the first, the Suns responded by closing the quarter on a 10-0 run. Golden State spent most of the second quarter and nearly all the second half trailing by double digits.
Circumstances were ripe for the Warriors to boss the Suns, but the reality delivered the opposite.
“One team has the emotional edge, like Phoenix did, and they set a tone right away,” Kerr said. “That’s all it takes. They made 14 3s and got 20 offensive rebounds because they were the more aggressive team.”
This was stunning by any measure – including the harsh truth of the Warriors being 0-2 against both the Detroit Pistons (11-33) and the Orlando Magic (15-26) this season.
The worst of it was that the Warriors were so disjointed and disconnected that they gave the distinct appearance of disinterest. There was no sign, none, of their fabled “championship DNA” – until the last seven minutes of the game.
That’s when urgency missing through the first three-plus quarters finally surfaced, with full-court defensive pressure and non-stop energy. The result was the Warriors slashing a 17-point deficit (105-88, 7:05 remaining) to six (113-109, 1:03 remaining).
“We have to be honest with ourselves about details of what makes a winning team,” Curry said. “Remind ourselves of what that is and hold ourselves to that standard, like everything you saw in the fourth quarter.
“I’m not saying you’re going to pick up 94 feet every possession and be able to sustain that for 48 minutes. But the level of focus, the level of togetherness, toughness, high-IQ basketball. We demonstrated a lot of that to try to give ourselves a chance to win.”
This game, the way it unfolded and the way it concluded, has the ingredients to be pivotal. To get under the skin and generate the pride and fury required to make a stout championship defense.
Are the Warriors as bad as their worst moments? As good as the best? They still believe, but they don’t have much to support that faith.
“We’ve been talking about it for a long time,” Curry said. “And eventually, you’ve got to do it. Or time runs out.”
At precisely the midway point of the season, the Warriors are a 20-21, sub-.500, put there by three teams – the Pistons, the Magic and the Suns – dragging slumps onto Golden State’s home court.
There is time for the Warriors to recover, 41 games to right this listing vessel. But humiliating losses like this have only two possible purposes. They affirm your identity as a non-contender, or they send you forth with a vengeance that brings out the best.