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The Warriors’ 122-105 loss against the Heat was a lesson in the importance of having a strong start

Falling behind by a huge margin during the first quarter proved to be the Warriors’ downfall against a quality opponent.

Golden State Warriors v Miami Heat Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images

The Golden State Warriors managed to outscore the Miami Heat in two quarters by a score of 58-54.

The problem with that, however, is that it took place during the second and third quarters. The first quarter was an entirely different story for the Warriors, whose league-worst defense reared its ugly head against a team fully capable of taking advantage of that prominent chink in the armor. The Heat ran roughshod all over the Warriors in the first quarter, scoring 41 points and allowing only 21 points, a testament to their fifth-ranked defense in the league.

The Warriors have largely failed to turn their short-lived victories into strings of success. All of their four wins have been followed by crushing defeats: After winning over the New Orleans Pelicans earlier this season, they followed that with an 11-point loss to the Phoenix Suns; their second win of the season against the Portland Trail Blazers was followed by a 17-point drubbing from the Houston Rockets; their demolition of the Memphis Grizzlies came before the Dallas Mavericks proceeded to demolish them by 48 points; and finally, this latest loss against the Heat came after comfortably fending off the Chicago Bulls.

This roster — its makeup and the personnel that is currently available and healthy — simply isn’t built to be sustainable. They can revel in the temporary highs and the fleeting victories, but they eventually run into an immovable object that can only be toppled by an unstoppable force — which the Warriors are most certainly not.

That was apparent as early as the Warriors’ 21-41 first quarter against the Heat, where their shooting splits left much to be desired: 36.4 percent from the field, with their only saving grace being their 4-of-9 clip from beyond the arc (44.4 percent). Their offense struggled out of the gates under the pressure of a well-drilled Miami defense, no doubt sharpened and refined under the tutelage of Erik Spoelstra.

On the other hand, the Warriors’ leaky defense had trouble containing the Heat during the first quarter, allowing 41 points and an appalling 76.2 percent shooting clip from the field, which included a 6-of-8 clip from beyond the arc (75.0 percent). After facing a Bulls offense that was too dulled and too limited to punish the Warriors defense, they faced a much more talented Heat team with multiple weapons and a defined system under a decorated head coach.

The second quarter proved to be much better for the Warriors, who managed to win the quarter over the Heat by a score of 37-30 and cutting down the halftime deficit to a manageable 13 points. But the advanced stats at the half painted a bleak picture.

The Heat proceeded to outscore the Warriors during the third quarter (24-21) and the fourth quarter (27-26). As those margins clearly tell, the Warriors managed to keep each quarter of the second half close — but their first quarter failure turned out to be the most glaring culprit in this latest setback, and in the end it proved to be their rate-limiting step.

By the end of the night, the Warriors’ final stats were as follows: 39.0 percent shooting from the field, 35.7 percent from beyond the arc, 30 rebounds (significantly less than the Heat’s 48 rebounds), 19 assists, and 9 turnovers. They finished with an offensive rating of 105.0, a defensive rating of 123.2, and a net rating of minus-18.2.

The final box score provided little solace and almost no semblance of a silver lining, save for one: Jordan Poole, who scored a career-high 20 points and, more importantly, accomplished it behind a 5-of-6 clip from beyond the arc. Going into last night’s game, Poole — who was expected to be a serviceable spot-up shooting option to replace the skillset of the injured Klay Thompson — was anything but serviceable from three-point range, shooting an abysmal 23.5 percent from beyond the arc.

Against the Heat, he received a momentary reprieve from his shooting woes. To hear him say it, the answer to such woes was as simple as things going his way for one night.

“It went in the hoop,” Poole succinctly answered, as if it was a matter-of-fact and there was no need of an elaborate response.

Poole’s personal victory was perhaps the sole positive attribute in a night where the Warriors struggled to climb out of a well of negativity. Their leader and established veteran, Draymond Green, could not lead them out of that well, playing only 19 minutes — a move that, as revealed by Steve Kerr, was a premeditated one.

“I don’t think we need to play him big and heavy minutes in a season like this,” Kerr said. “We’re obviously playing for the future, playing for next year. But he needs to be out on the floor to help guide these young players. I know he wants to be out on the floor, so we gotta find the balance between allowing him to make his impact with this team and not wearing him down at the same time.”

With one game on the road down, the Warriors will still have a lot of frequent-flyer miles left for the week ahead. They will have another back-to-back slate against the Orlando Magic on Sunday and the Atlanta Hawks on Monday. They will then travel to Stephen Curry’s hometown of Charlotte on Wednesday to complete their season series with the Hornets. The will then have their final game of the five-game trip in Chicago, where they will face the Bulls for the second and final time this season. All of these games theoretically should be winnable ones for the Warriors, and finishing the roadtrip with more wins than losses isn’t a preposterous claim.

But in order for that to happen, they should take care not to fall behind early like they did against the Heat, or else risk rendering their efforts in coming back and making a stand against their opponents moot and futile.

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