USA TODAY Sports
Man, I don't even know what to say. First thing that comes to mind:
The Warriors were completely outclassed in all facets of the game of basketball tonight, and the outcome never felt in doubt. It might have been decided before it even started: without Stephen Curry, you knew the offense was not going to be up to par, and even the most optimistic among us weren't expecting much.
But damn. They just looked silly out there. I don't even want to write about it.
Certainly Curry's absence was the catalyst for the implosion. The Heat may have gone in with the same defensive game plan regardless: hard traps on any and all pick-and-rolls and jumping the passing outlets for steals. Steph isn't the greatest ball handler or decision maker in those situations, so it may have worked even against him. But it definitely worked without him: ball handlers were giving the ball away like Halloween candy. The Warriors gave up 22 points off of turnovers in total, the vast majority of those coming in the first half against the starters. Jarrett Jack, for all his attempted heroics in place of Curry, consistently put the ball in peril. Klay Thompson was clearly not comfortable with the traps, and he played right into the hands of the Heat.
But not having Curry may have been felt more when they didn't turn the ball over. Steph's impact on the offense goes far beyond ball handling and decision making. He's a shot-maker. And he's a threatening-to-make-a-shot-er. They clearly need that efficiency, that range, that threat on the three point line. Without it, everything else collapses. The defense sank down into the paint, making it harder for David Lee to get looks. They keyed in on Thompson on the perimeter, forcing him to rush shots (though he hardly needs encouragement for that).
You have to give the Heat a ton of credit here. They looked like the team with more energy and athleticism, crashing around and making life miserable for the Warriors on both ends. Having the best player in the universe helps, of course, and LeBron James became the youngest player ever to reach 20,000 points on his way to snuffing us out. But they were also the team that executed: they came in with a plan to disrupt, and they did it to perfection. They made the Warriors look like kids on a playground.
It's tempting to brush this game off. We were without one of our best players, and still without one of our other best players (despite the rumor that lilboots dropped on us), against the defending champions with the best player on earth, on a double-revenge day: we beat them at home once, and they just lost to the Jazz in near-humiliating fashion.
But it might also be an indication of thinner ice than we thought we were on a couple of weeks ago. Four losses in the last five games, a few of them downright disappointing showings. There's definitely some deflation here, in how confident one can feel in the team, and in the apparent confidence the team has in itself. They looked early on like they didn't stand a chance, and they also looked like they knew it. Not a great feeling heading into San Antonio, where the Warriors haven't won since dinosaurs roamed the earth.
I want to preach some patience here. I don't think it's fair to look at Friday as a must-have bounce-back game. But I'm also fearful of a significant slide; the rest of January is murderous, and it might be some time before we can feel redeemed. Patience and faith is required, and lots of it. Maybe Coach Jackson should come on here to GSoM and give us a dose. Because there are no positive takeaways from a game like tonight.
Stephen Curry gets the WW. Because we might well have lost with him, but we got our asses kicked without him. If anybody doubted his importance to this team, they might want to watch the game tape.