Very clever of the Warriors, trying to con the NBA into thinking they aren’t the best basketball team ever created. But it won’t work. We all know the NBA championship is theirs, and all they have to do is throw their Nikes, adidas and Under Armours on the court and they’ll win in a walk.
So they lost their very first game of the 2016-17 season, 129-100, to the San Antonio Spurs at Oracle. So a considerable portion of the sellout crowd left early.
“We’re going to win some games,” promised head coach Steve Kerr. Absolutely.
But not if they play like that.
That’s two in a row now for the Dubs, the final of the championship series to Cleveland and the opener of the subsequent season. Too bad Golden State didn’t do something to get better during the summer, like signing a top-grade free agent.
Oh, sorry, they did, that guy Kevin Durant. He wasn’t bad, 27 points, one more than teammate Steph Curry. Those guys can shoot. Unfortunately, it looked like no one else could. The bench should have stayed on the bench.
The evening was, well, stunning: a train wreck if you well. It was almost beyond comprehension. Those were the Warriors, with the last two NBA MVPs? With four all-pros in the starting lineup? Sir, you jest. Which is about what Kerr pleaded with the media types to do.
“Anybody got a joke?” was Kerr’s initial remark. Two dozen journalists bit their lips, when it would have been so easy to answer, “Yeah, the Warriors tonight.”
What happened? The Warriors didn’t play defense or rebound. Oh well, Andrew Bogut will be back in the lineup before we know it. Yes, I know, he’s gone, a victim of the acquisition of Durant. Everyone thinks that you win on 25-foot jumpers, and those can’t be underestimated. But you really win by keeping the other team from making any shots, long or short.
Kawhi Leonard is the league’s top defensive player — over the Warriors’ Draymond Green, by the way — but Tuesday was the game’s high scorer, 36 points, 10 of 21 from the floor and 10 of 10 from the line; yes the W’s do know how to foul.
“We just wanted to come out here and be the better team,” Leonard insisted when asked whether the proud Spurs, who had won numerous championships, were weary of all the hype about the Warriors.
Well, Tuesday night they were.
“They’re a great team,” Kerr said of San Antonio. But, but that’s what everyone else had said about the Warriors.
Only Tuesday, John Branch wrote a paean to the Warriors in the New York Times, a story with a headline referencing Pele’s description of soccer, and the Dub’s skillful ball movement, “The Golden State Warriors play the Beautiful Game.”
But Tuesday night the game was beautiful only to make opponents think the Dubs are overrated. Or underachieving.
“I didn’t have them ready,” said Kerr, stating the obvious. “We missed some easy shots, but I never worry about missed shots. It’s more about loose balls and a second or third effort. … That’s a team that exposed some of our weaknesses.”
We were trying to believe they didn’t have any, that other than the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Warriors weren’t going to have much trouble. They’ve got a lot of trouble. And it starts with a D, for defense, and includes an R for rebounding.
“We are a smaller team,” reminded Kerr. “We have to hit bodies and box out.”
Bodies or baskets, they’ll need to hit both. A year ago the Warriors began with 24 straight victories. Ah, the good old days.
“I didn’t see losing by 29 points,” said Kerr. “We had a pretty good camp and a pretty good exhibition season. But that doesn’t mean a whole lot.”
He was on target there, unlike his team’s field goal attempts.