This recap was supposed to be about a great Golden State Warriors win at home against a top Western Conference team in the West in the Memphis Grizzlies.
It was supposed to be about how Stephen Curry started to look like himself again after a great scoring performance, hitting threes and cutting up the Grizzlies elite defense.
It was going to be about the 24-point lead that Golden State had in the second half, as the bench was getting prepared to come in and mop up the lopsided victory.
Then, the fourth quarter happened...
Warriors' 4th quarter: 15% from the field; 0% from three; 5 turnovers; 0 assists.— Fast Break (@GSWFastBreak) January 7, 2017
KD's grade in 2K MyPlayer DEFINITELY dropped for "excessive calling for ball" and "Bad shot selection" pic.twitter.com/pPV290QCAz— 50 Shades of Gav (@GavBurl) January 7, 2017
Draymond is a lot of things but he isn't dumb. Clip aside his body language late game was telling https://t.co/CJUxOEmvRG— sam esfandiari (@samesfandiari) January 7, 2017
Then overtime happened...
And the Warriors found themselves on the wrong end of a catastrophic letdown, losing 128-119.
The Part where I give Memphis Credit they Deserve
Before I talk about how the Warriors blew this game, credit must immediately must be given to Memphis for a crazy effort in the second half of this game.
Give some points to the fact that the Grizzlies are infinitely better without Vince Carter and Chandler Parsons on the floor at this point (Troy Daniels shot lights out for the Memphis off the bench and was absolutely the momentum shifter). The game ball for Memphis goes to Zach Randolph (+24 tonight), who immediately gets my Sixth Man of the Year vote (if I even remotely had one) for dominating Golden State’s small back up lineup, again exposing the lack of a second big man on this roster. The absolute Warrior killer? Mike Conley, who scored 27 points on 10-19 shooting, hit every big shot that they needed, and was absolutely worth $30M per year tonight.
So... What Happened?
The blame needs to be put onto Golden State. You cannot blow this game
a) at home
b) with such a horrible scoring performance in the fourth quarter and
c) while looking completely soft, out of sorts, and like an unsettled team fighting on the court the whole time.
Memphis started to counterpunch, and not only did Golden State fail to counter, but they completely unraveled while they did, leading to arguments between Draymond Green and Kevin Durant going into overtime. They watched the lead dwindle, and turned into an inefficient offense with everyone standing around.
The 4th quarter against Memphis is the first time this season the Warriors have logged 0 assists in a quarter.— Fast Break (@GSWFastBreak) January 7, 2017
Green: "Klay's just standing. Not his fault. It's Steve's fault. It's my fault as a floor general. It's Steph's fault as a floor general."— Marcus Thompson (@ThompsonScribe) January 7, 2017
Admit it or not, this collapse had been building up for awhile...and H ere is the proof:
#1: The Warriors have blown more leads than you care to admit. On the road, they have had big leads in Milwaukee and famously in Cleveland, and have let teams back into games. At home recently, they have let Toronto crawl back into games in the 2nd half and allowed Portland and Denver to keep games much closer than they should have been. The overall differential is great, but it is because their blowouts are larger than last year.
#2: Crunch Time Warriors look horrible right now. If you can get this team to play a close game, the Warriors are missing shots down the stretch, failing to convert free throws, and making mental mistakes when it counts. Dare I say it: there are too many alpha dogs at this moment. With a two-point lead in regulation and the ball after a Klay rebound, Kevin Durant called his own number and iso’d. He has Curry, who has been tearing up the Grizz all night, open and waves him off. He has the rest of his team and one of the best passing offenses of all time, and he chooses the mismatch at the top of the key for a contested three. Green was rightfully livid standing in the corner relegated to a decoy. For the final play at the end of regulation, the offense couldn't get Curry free for a drive to the basket and instead watched him hoist up a prayer. Kerr has a huge challenge ahead of him right now: establishing the pecking order on this squad.
#3: The body language on the team is horrible right now. Steve Kerr even admitted it in quotes after the game. If you watch the games, guys are shrugging shoulders, blowing assignments and looking helplessly at each other. Green looks like the only guy trying to pump up the crowd. Curry looks lost, and I’m not sure how he is supposed to find it. He doesn't look like he is enjoying playing basketball right now, and the game is not coming as easy to him as it has in the past. Maybe a solid punch in the face like tonight is what it takes for this team to air out their differences, get back on the same page and right the ship. The whole league has now watched the best team in the NBA — the team with all the expectations, the team looking to be the greatest of all time — now collapse and fight with each other on the court. Blood is in the water, and now all the sharks will be swimming.
What needs to be addressed going forward?
• Remember that beer that Steph Curry and Klay Thompson had in the playoffs a few years back after a loss? The whole team needs some “coming to jesus” talk about composure going forward. They are veterans, and I’m sure those that will be accountable will hold themselves accountable. Give credit to Draymond Green for the post-game quote:
“Our fourth quarter defense has been atrocious... I’m actually happy we lost today... I don't feel like right now we’re getting better at the rate we need to get better at in order to win a championship.”
Where do you go from here? You address it and fix it. At least this happens in the regular season and not hopefully in the post season. The Warriors are 0-5 against Memphis, Houston, Cleveland and San Antonio, with many of those being embarrassing losses. I’m actually impressed by Green criticizing KD on the floor. It takes a team with good chemistry to yell at a MVP on the court after a big play. I’m not sure KD had that in OKC over the last few years. With Green there, I have confidence that things will get better.
• The roster might need a tweak. I have loved David West playing the small ball five with the backups, but this team is missing a dimension. They can beat smaller teams by running them off the court, but bigger teams like Memphis —- and even Cleveland with many of their lineups — will punish the Warriors in the second unit. Bob Myers and the front office can wait for a buy-out candidate, but for now they need the bench to step up production. Shawn Livingston and even Andre Iguodala had horrible games down the stretch... one bench contribution could have kept the lead. Maybe new life will shake up the energy on the roster.
And Finally... Why Things Are Fine
• Because the Warriors still have the best record in the league, EVEN WITH THE LOSS
• Because, as we learned last year, it really doesn't matter what you do in the regular season. It matters what you do in the post season.
• Because conflict is good. Frontrunners have nothing to play for. Golden State now has a “nobody thinks we are for real” vibe, and let’s hope it motivates them
• Because conflict is created by the fans and media. The team seems generally ready to accept blame and move on.
• Because the Warriors still have six former All-Stars, including four in their starting lineup. The talent is here, and the regular season is for building chemistry. This is that moment.
• Because they have some big matchups coming up against Cleveland at Oracle and the Spurs on the road. They can make everyone forget about this with some decisive performances in the future.
The Warriors have a chance to recover up in Sacramento on Sunday night, facing the Kings in a possible postseason first-round preview. They get a day at home with no travel to talk this stuff out and get their heads right. For Warriors fans out there, stay off Twitter, avoid your trash-talking friends who want to tell you how fake Golden State is. Fire up your Championship Highlights from two years back and believe everything is fine.
I'm happy with 31-6, KD, 2015 MVP-caliber Steph. How u? https://t.co/D5qdJrbY3w— Nate P (@NateP_SBN) January 7, 2017
See you all Sunday night in Sacramento... and, for what it’s worth, I don't want to be the Kings right now when the Warriors take their “frustration” out on someone...