Kurtenbach: The Warriors are no longer title contenders
The Warriors answered the big question of the last few weeks on Saturday night.
Things, indeed, can get worse.
Given the circumstances around the contest — the need for the Warriors to pick up a win — Golden State’s loss to the Lakers in Los Angeles it could well be the most embarrassing loss of the season for the Dubs.
The Warriors have now have fallen to third place in the Western Conference standings. They are losers of four straight games and eight of their last 10. That losing streak is almost guaranteed to become five, as the Warriors will not be sending their best players to Denver on Monday for their rescheduled game with the Nuggets.
Of course, the Warriors’ best players were likely poised to lose that game any way the way they were playing.
The Warriors’ slump goes well beyond the absence of Draymond Green. The do-it-all forward cannot come back soon enough — his absence is acutely felt on both sides of the ball — but there’s no way that one man can patch all the holes this team has developed over the last few weeks.
These Warriors have fully lost the benefit of the doubt. They should no longer be considered a title contender based on their early-season work and Green’s possible return.
Perhaps Green can bring the Warriors back above that standard in the coming weeks. Perhaps Klay Thompson will find his game, Andrew Wiggins will find some aggression, and Steve Kerr will find some player combinations that actually work once again.
But until we see the Warriors play outstanding basketball for at least a week-long stretch once again, we have to presume that this team’s stay in the postseason will be shorter than anyone expected only a few weeks ago.
The biggest issue is that the Warriors only have 18 games left in the season. Five weeks remain in the season.
Things can quickly spiral out of control, but putting everything back together is going to take some time, and the Warriors are running out of it.
As if it wasn’t already apparent, these are not the dynastic Warriors of years past. This is a team that was playing two 19-year-olds in big fourth-quarter minutes Saturday night (and would have been justified to continue doing it). This is a team that’s relying on players making the NBA minimum to provide maximum output on a near-nightly basis. This is a team that needs a mercurial shooter (Jordan Poole) and an All-Star with mercurial aggression (Wiggins) to be at the top of their games to win. This is a team that has one center and whose No. 2 offensive threat is a guard whose game is predicated on rhythm but hasn’t found any since returning from a two-plus year absence following two catastrophic leg injuries.
If everything is working for the Warriors, this team is formidable.
But when was the last time that happened against a quality opponent?
I actually have an answer for that question: It was Jan. 25.
The 49ers were still playing football back then.
“If the playoffs started tomorrow, we would be in some trouble,” Steph Curry said.
In all, the Warriors have won four games against true playoff teams since Thompson returned to the lineup — and Green exited — on Jan. 9. All of those wins happened in the first two weeks of his return.
“We are not stepping on teams when they are down,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “We are making mistakes and allowing teams to hang around. And when you do that in this league, you’re dead.”
I suggested last Sunday that the Warriors’ collapse to the Mavericks would be a pivot point in the season. A week later, this team is already spinning. That Dallas game doesn’t even look like a warning sign of what was to come anymore — we can go further back and see the issues developing.
This is a team that cannot defend a big man. Saturday night was another example of a top center working them over. LeBron James saw the start at the 5 for the Lakers on Saturday — we had seen LeBron play some center in NBA Finals past, a tactical effort to neutralize Green. This time around, James was at the 5 because the depleted Lakers had no better options.
He scored 56 points in the game — 26 coming in the paint — while drawing eight fouls.
James worked the Warriors over, and, as we have seen over the last few weeks, that inside pressure has created outside opportunities for Warriors’ opponents. The Lakers are a bottom-third team in the NBA in 3-point shooting, but on Saturday night, with the Warriors constantly collapsing into the paint in vain, Los Angeles looked fantastic from beyond the arc, making 44 percent of their 3s.
The Warriors are 27th in defensive efficiency over the last 10 games.
It’s the same formula, night after night. The only constant is the Warriors.
This is not the team that stormed out of the gates this season and made a statement to the rest of the NBA that they were back. They’re a far cry from that.
No, this team has more excuses than answers right now.
And there are simply too many “ifs” being tossed around with the Warriors to view them as a serious threat to win it all.
Source: Culled From Paradise Post.