If Wednesday’s Game 2 felt a little bit too familiar to Golden State Warriors fans, it’s because it was. The Warriors looked feckless and uninspired from the opening tip to the final buzzer and lost 127-105 to the Houston Rockets.
Despite the magnitude of the game, Golden State never looked particularly interested in winning. And for Warriors fans, it felt like a replay of Game 3 in the Western Conference Semifinals, when they lost in a similar fashion, 119-100 to the New Orleans Pelicans. Or perhaps Game 4 of the opening round, when the San Antonio Spurs beat them 103-90.
It feels like, when the Warriors lose, they really lose.
And it feels like that because it’s the truth.
Counting the playoffs, the Warriors have lost 27 games this year. 16 of those losses came by double digits. They lost by three or fewer points once: On opening night.
For comparison, the Rockets lost 20 games this year. 10 were be double figures, with three coming by three or fewer points.
Of the eight playoff teams in the Western Conference, the Warriors were seventh in net rating in losses.
In other words, you’re not just imagining it. When they lose, they really lose.
Instinctively this seems like a bad thing, but it really isn’t.
The game was meaningless. Go back and research the playoff histories of the greatest NBA dynasties. They are littered with blowout losses in road games they didn’t need. Losing home games is the tell.— feltbot (@feltbot) May 17, 2018
It’s true. The Miami Heat team that was led by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh won back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013. During those two playoff runs they lost on the road by double figures six different times.
For the Warriors, though, it’s not just that great teams lose big when the game isn’t critical. It’s that Golden State almost never loses close games, which represents that when they’re actually invested in winning the game, they almost always do.
It’s frustrating, for fans, watching the Dubs repeatedly wet the bed due to complacency. The writing was on the wall after the first quarter of Game 2. The Warriors didn’t seem interested in winning, and it didn’t seem like there was any chance that they would. It’s not fun to watch.
And yet, it’s oddly comforting. If you were worried that Houston “figured out” Golden State, or that the Warriors were eroding, don’t be. They just didn’t show up, because they didn’t need to.
But rest assured: when they need to show up, they almost surely will. And history tells us that when they do show up, they’ll leave with a victory.