Where have the Warriors gone? Collapse to Celtics could spark changes by Steve Kerr
12:38 a.m. ET
BOSTON — During the first three quarters of the Golden State Warriors’ game against the Boston Celtics on Thursday, Stephen Curry and company looked alike. Coach Steve Kerr went so far as to say they looked like a championship team.
But then, in the fourth quarter and overtime, everything they had put together fell apart…again.
And now, after a 121-118 loss to the Celtics, the Warriors are 22-23 midway through the season and just 5-18 on the road.
“We’re capable, but it’s a matter of execution and being able to sustain it,” Curry said. “There is another level to reach that we have not reached [to] in terms of setting up the full 48 minutes.”
The Warriors are in full search mode. They’ve been there all season. And so far they have found almost nothing.
They don’t panic or show much concern, at least publicly. Klay Thompson is resting on their long-held mindset: if we get to the playoffs healthy, we can beat anyone.
To some extent they still believe this to be true. But there is also an understanding that this season is not like the others.
“Last year [we] started 18-2, we had a few tough times but at least you had a segment of the season where you could say we got it,” Curry said after Golden State’s loss to the Chicago Bulls on Jan. 15. We might have had a game or two, but we didn’t have a period where we can always say we got it. You’re going to lose games from time to time… But a lot of it is self-inflicted or not being able to prove we have the identity we need.”
Golden State can file its game against the Celtics under the umbrella that Curry was talking about.
The Golden State Warriors fell to 22-23 and a dreadful 5-18 on the road after a loss to the Boston Celtics. Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
For the majority of their dynastic run over the past 10 years, the Warriors have become known for their big third quarters. They set up different versions of the small-ball closing lineups which they dubbed “death lineups”. The slogan “Unity is strength” was well deserved.
But this season, everything seems off.
Thursday’s game at Boston saw one of their best third quarterbacks in a while, but they failed to slam the door. Their bench hasn’t been as productive as last season.
“There has to be a sense of urgency, but I don’t think we play that way… If you don’t have a consistent level of urgency, you’re going to lose,” Draymond Green said after their Chicago loss. .
He continued: “I think the point [where we’ll turn a corner] will come, but you have to build towards it. You can’t take two steps forward or three steps back. It must be a constant construction… this constant construction has not started.”
Golden State is far from the first team with title aspirations to tread water halfway through the season. Just a year ago, the Celtics found themselves with a 25-25 record in 50 games.
After a loss to the Atlanta Hawks on January 28, the Celtics went on a nine-game winning streak. They only lost six games the rest of the regular season en route to the NBA Finals.
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The Warriors will now look to follow a similar script, and one they know themselves.
Two seasons ago without Thompson, Golden State hovered around .500 before winning 15 of its last 20 games, ultimately losing in the qualifying tournament.
The Warriors haven’t expressed exactly what’s holding them back. They said they didn’t know why they couldn’t string together some good plays — or even a string of good decisions, in some cases — together.
Kerr took the first step in trying to find a spark for his team by swapping his starting roster for the Celtics, which he said he would keep for now. Jordan Poole started in place of Kevon Looney, joining Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, Curry and Green.
“We’re past the halfway point and we’re at .500. Let’s try something different,” Kerr said.
There’s still time for the Warriors to come together. And, while Curry says they can’t rest on their laurels and expect everything to suddenly click, there is a level of comfort given their experience.
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And that’s what keeps them from worrying.
“We have a core group that has won titles,” Kerr said. “I have great faith in all these guys. They’ve been through everything together and they’ve been very successful. It’s a long time to get through the NBA season…it’s not easy. But I have no doubt that we have enough. And these guys know how to make it happen.