The Warriors may have thought they had answered questions about inconsistencies with their first winning streak in three games of the season, but if Sunday’s loss to the Lakers between 117 and 91 proved anything, it’s too early for that Address concerns.
With a convincing win against the Hornets on Friday, the Warriors had the opportunity on Sunday at the Staples Center to extend their best winning streak of the season and to claim a victory over the reigning champions. Instead, they lacked the energy, they let themselves be discouraged by missed shots and were 29 points behind at half time.
The last moments of the first half were particularly demoralizing. Second year security guard Talen Horton-Tucker sped lightly through security guard Damion Lee, sending Lee past the support to improve at 4:23 and improve the Lakers by 29 points. Seconds later, striker Draymond Green sprained his left ankle while playing a layup and finished the game at 4:15. Then LeBron James stepped on a 3-pointer on the buzzer that felt like a dagger, although there were still two quarters to play. At half time, the warriors announced that Green would not return. It was clear by then that there was no reason to risk Green’s long-term health for a lost cause.
The Warriors (19-16) played their best basketball of the season until Sunday. The defense, ranked fourth, gave up a few open shots, giving Golden State a chance every night. Green (six points in 3v5 shooting, one rebound and two assists in 13 minutes) was a successful playmaker. Stephen Curry (16 points in 5-on-13 and seven assists in 26 minutes) played at MVP level and the starting line-up with center Kevon Looney after an injury led to an early lead.
The starters of the Warriors were however thoroughly played out and gave the Lakers a season high of 41 points in the first quarter. For the game, the Warriors were outscored by 24 points when Curry was on the ground. That’s a losing formula, no matter what Golden State gets from its teammates. Not that these teammates did much better. The Warriors shot a total of 40%, went 8v34 from the 3-point range, recovered between 60 and 35, and coughed 20 turnovers, resulting in 22 Lakers points.
Meanwhile, the Lakers (24-11) without All-Star Anthony Davis (right calf loading) hit 53.7% of their 2-pointers, often reaching the free-throw line (26-for-38 on free throws) and choking them Warriors in defense.
« We didn’t have a chance from the start, » said head coach Steve Kerr. « We weren’t ready to play and they came out and played a great game. Just a very disappointing night. »
Even though the Warriors hit a 19-point deficit last month to beat the Lakers, Sunday proved they couldn’t place themselves in the same class just yet. Yes, the three-game winning streak – something Golden State had eluded seven times before – was a sign of progress. But two of those wins came from teams outside the playoff position, and none of those opponents had the Lakers’ strength.
The Warriors are now 2-7 against teams with 20 or more wins and were beaten by 143 points in those games. There’s a noticeable talent gap between these teams and these warriors, especially when Klay Thompson pauses for the season because of an Achilles tear, but it’s the lack of effort and persistence that worries.
For the most part, the Warriors take care of the business against smaller opponents and should be good enough to make the playoffs in the Western Conference. But any ideas of competing with the Lakers, Jazz, or Clippers will be dashed if they don’t figure out how to step up on the occasion on evenings like Sunday.
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