In what has been a year of the Warriors moving the ball to the open player and not fishing for individual plays the team devolved into an isolation basketball team at the worst possible time.
The Warriors blew a 24-point lead and lost to Memphis for the second time this season 128-119.
Although this game was much more demoralizing than the 23-point drubbing the Grizzlies put on them earlier in the season.
Mike Conley led the Grizzlies with 27 points, with clutch shot after clutch shot, including one with seven seconds left to send the game to overtime.
Stephen Curry said he doesn’t even know how the lead disappeared so fast:
“This is one I actually really need to see the film to understand how it got away from us so quick. They really put their foot down, down the stretch and towards the middle of the fourth to make it a game. A tough way to lose tonight but one that I think is all correctable just off of focus on not getting too comfortable down the stretch of games.”
On the second to last possession of regulation the Warriors were nursing a two-point lead with a chance to ice the game. Curry had the ball in his hands at the top of the floor, instead of running a pick-and-roll or any kind of action Kevin Durant called for the isolation, which Curry begrudgingly gave him, only to watch Durant settle for a 3-pointer over a slow-footed Zach Randolph that clanked off the rim.
That one play was a microcosm of exactly the opposite of what the Warriors prided themselves on the last few season and what convinced Durant to join the team, ball movement and unselfishness.
Draymond Green was as animated as if the refs had just whistled him for a foul, and he pulled Durant aside to talk to him about it.
Durant said that the exchange looked intense because of Green’s animated nature:
“He said we should have stuck with the pick-and-roll. He’s very passionate so it looked a little different but it was just about us saying what we did all game and he was wondering why it went away from it.”
But that play was reminiscent of the first year of the Miami Heat super team that ran a, ‘my turn, your turn’ type of offense with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Something the Warriors have never done, which made it so shocking that it even happened.
After the game the team were guarded in what they wanted from that play specifically or how frustrated Curry and Green actually looked as the play was developing, but it was palpable.
What’s ironic is that this breakdown happened during the first game all year in which Curry looked and played like his MVP self, the type of game fans have been clamoring for all season as Curry has looked to defer more and more. He exploded in the first—not with the usual barrage of 3-pointers—but with a gang of finishes at the rim.
He shot 5-of-5 at the rim to be exact, and scored 17 total in what had to have been Curry’s most aggressive first quarter all season. He matched that 17-point total in the third when he was looking like the Curry of old with off dribbling displays, off-balance threes and a four-point play.
— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) January 7, 2017
The reigning MVP hit four three-pointers in the third quarter and the Warriors built their huge lead on his back, but then old habits of standing around on offense and being careless with the ball reared its head again.
Green said that’s when the team’s body language started to turn:
“I think the lead went from 24 at that point to 15 or 16 and everybody body language started to drop. Including mine, I was probably the worst one. I was the worst one, I know I was. And we can’t do that, I can’t do that. It’s probably my fault that everybody else did that. Nonetheless, we got some things that we need to correct.”
Curry would finish with 40 points but with just four coming in the fourth quarter and none in overtime in what has become a sad regularity for the Warriors of shrinking in the final quarter.
It was so bad Friday that the team made just two field goals in the fourth quarter, and Green said that’s on everyone:
“If you look at the fourth quarter, Klay’s standing in the fourth quarter and that’s not Klay’s fault, it’s our fault. It’s Steve’s fault, it’s my fault as a leader on the floor as a floor general, it’s Steph’s fault as a floor general to get us in place, to get everybody moving. It’s not like it’s one guy’s fault. We win together, we lose together.”
Thompson was questionable to even play as he was suffering an illness, but he would finish with 17 points on 17 attempts, and at times looked like he thought the cure for the common cold was shots, but then didn’t shoot at all in the fourth.
The Warriors have had trouble all year scoring in the fourth all season, as they lead the NBA in scoring in the first, second and third quarter, but are just 10th in the NBA in fourth quarter scoring.
And it has come back to bite them against the better teams as both Cleveland and Memphis capitalized on their debilitatingly awful fourth quarters and turned them into crushing comeback wins.
Green said that their deficiencies in the fourth have been noticeable all year-long and they need to start fixing it immediately:
“Our fourth quarter offense has been atrocious. I’m actually happy we lost today. Because there’s some things we need to correct in order to win a championship. And that’s our goal. I’m kind of thrilled that we lost because you usually make corrections when you lose.”
With their five-game homestand finished, the Warriors make the 87 mile drive up to the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento for a matchup with DeMarcus Cousins and the Kings. Sacramento currently sits in the eighth and final playoff spot in the West, which makes this matchup a potential first round preview.
With their nine-point loss tonight, the Warriors lose some ground on their league leading point differential, which now sits at 11.9. The San Antonio Spurs are in second place with a point differential of 8.2. …David West dished out three assists in his 11 minutes of action and has now tallied an assist in 18 straight games. He’s sixth on the Warriors in assists per game with an average of 2.0, despite playing just 11.4 minutes a game. … The 24 point lead is the biggest lead the Warriors have blown since 1999. … In the last two games Curry has combined to score 75 points, which is the most combined points for any two-game stretch for him all season.