SAN FRANCISCO — Coach Steve Kerr thought the Warriors might’ve finally got the boost they needed to turn their season around.
With four of their five starters watching on the bench in street clothes, Jordan Poole and Kevon Looney led the team’s reserves to pull off an improbable road win over the towering Cleveland Cavaliers Friday night.
But just two nights later and with their entire starting lineup intact, the Warriors found themselves in a familiar, unsettling position.
For the third consecutive game, Golden State blew a double figure lead in the second half and found itself scrambling late. While the Warriors managed to fend off a Cavaliers’ fourth-quarter rally Friday, they couldn’t stop the Brooklyn Nets, ultimately falling 120-116.
“We’re 23-24 for a reason, we’re not good enough yet to close games,” Kerr said after the loss. “We’ve got to get better, and so we make strides and feel like we’re getting close and then we have a lapse… The games are nothing but a bunch of possessions stacked together and you have to execute. We made some defensive mistakes in that fourth quarter. We had a decent lead… and had some really bad offensive possessions and they got the momentum right back.”
A defensive breakdown led to a wide-open Royce O’Neale who knocked down the 3 with 27 seconds remaining in the game. The bucket put the Nets up 118-116.
The Warriors had time to retaliate. But Klay Thompson, who went 4-for-17 from the field for 10 points Sunday, missed the 3 after the timeout. Kyrie Irving snatched the rebound and was fouled.
Irving drained the pair of free throws to make it a two possession game with 14 seconds left.
“Losing sucks no matter what the reason is, losing is a terrible feeling,” Stephen Curry said after the game. “We hate it and being 23-24 past the halfway mark of the season, we’ve experienced a lot of it. So we need to bottle it up and do something about it. Feel like nobody’s letting go of the rope, nobody’s thinking that we can’t do it. Again, that’s our challenge to not be in this situation where every other night explaining why we didn’t get the job done.”
The Warriors didn’t have many answers for their latest meltdown. Some pointed to the lack of execution on both ends of the ball as the reason for their misfortune. Curry suggested lack of communication, defensive mishaps and stagnant offense among other issues as being the culprit to the team’s problems.
While the Warriors have repeatedly said they’re not concerned, the sense of urgency is reaching a boiling point.
“We understand the moment is now to go on a run but we keep hitting these speed bumps,” Curry said. “Not taking advantage of how our guys played in Cleveland, in moments like that, you feel like this is our time to turn it up and we’re right back in this position and you’re struggling to find any type of winning execution down the stretch or in the course of just putting together 48 minutes. Our sense of urgency is high.”
The Warriors have played well in spurts and have a few statement wins under their belt. But they’ve continued to struggle with putting it together for a complete 48 minutes. Draymond Green believes the team’s inability to sustain momentum over the course of games is in part due to the defensive focus waning.
“You want to win, you got to play good defensively for 48 minutes, we’re not doing it,” Green said.
Asked as the team’s defensive anchor why it’s been hard to lock in on that end, Green said, “I don’t know… We have to do a better job of containing the dribble penetration, if we can do that [it] allows you to set your defense up well. If you don’t do that, it makes it a lot tougher.”
Green helped Thompson with Kyrie Irving as he made a move to the rim with just over 30 seconds left. But O’Neal, a 40% 3-point shooter this season, was left open on the wing.
“We’re letting guys get into the paint too easily,” Green said. “Team’s can really shoot these days, you keep letting the paint get broken or the defense get broken, people attacking the paint, you react to it, and teams hit 3s.”
The Warriors led 72-60 at halftime, making the fourth time they’ve scored 70-or-more points in the first half this season. But Golden State lacked energy out of the break, while the Nets, who were without former Warrior Durant, jumped out on a 15-5 run to tie the game at 75.
The Warriors led 90-86 heading into the fourth quarter and their lead swelled to 13 with just under seven minutes remaining. But Golden State committed too many mistakes and couldn’t get enough stops down the stretch.
Irving finished with a game-high 38 points, nine assists and seven rebounds. Nic Claxton had a double-double with 24 points and 15 rebounds.
Wiggins had another rough shooting night, going 2-for-9 from the field for four points. Curry, one of six Warriors players to finish in double figure scoring, led the team with 26 points. Jonathan Kuminga, playing in his second game after missing eight with a sprained foot, had 20 points. Looney recorded his sixth double-double of his season, tallying 14 points and 10 rebounds.
After yet another disappointing loss, it begs the question: Where do the Warriors go from here?
“You just keep going,” Kerr said. “You always get up and you go to work and you keep plugging away. You believe in what you’re doing.”
The Warriors will be back in action Wednesday when they host the Memphis Grizzlies.