By C.J. Peterson
Special to S.F. Examiner
Pushing the ball down court on a fast break opportunity in the first two minutes of Thursday night’s game against the Houston Rockets, Draymond Green hit a streaking Kevin Durant in the lane for an easy one-handed-slam.
The textbook play looked to symbolize the reconciliation between Durant and Green — who have seemingly been at odds for the last 72 hours.
Unfortunately for the Warriors, however, while the Green-Durant drama seems to be laid to rest for that moment, things don’t look like they’ve returned to normalcy just yet, as Golden State took a 107-86 walloping courtesy of Chris Paul and the Rockets.
“We’re banged up physically and spiritually,” said Warriors head coach Steve Kerr. “There’s no getting around that.”
Coming to Houston for the first time since winning Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals in May, the Warriors entered Thursday night’s game without their star point guard, Stephen Curry, who suffered a strained adductor in a 134-111 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Nov. 8.
In their fourth consecutive game with Curry on the shelf, the Warriors opted to start small forward Andre Iguodala for the first time this season. While starting Iguodala put an elite decision-maker on the floor, it also translated to much less offensive mobility.
In the first quarter, the Warriors only managed to score a total of 19 points, falling well below their league-leading season average of 32.8 points in the first period. It also was their lowest-scoring first quarter of the year.
“I thought our defense was good early but we didn’t capitalize,” Kerr said. “We weren’t making shots. We just weren’t getting great looks.”
That poor shooting would follow the Warriors for the entirety of the evening. Finishing the game 32-of-76 from the floor, Golden State shot 42 percent on the night, also well below their season average of 50.9 percent.
Golden State didn’t make great use of their possessions, and not just because of a bad shooting night. In total, the Warriors would turn the ball over 16 times. Five of those would directly be attributed to Green, who made his return from a one-game suspension on Tuesday.
“I was horrible,” said Green after the game. “I couldn’t do nothing right. A lot of it was plays that I usually make. I just didn’t really have that feel tonight.”
For Green, missing three of his last four games, in part, contributed to his lackluster performance. After missing two consecutive games with a sprained foot and toe, Green made his return to the court against the Clippers on Monday. It was at the end of the fourth quarter in Los Angeles, with the Warriors and the Clippers tied at 106-106, that Green fumbled the ball bringing it up court, rather than passing to Durant, who was clapping his hands, wanting to take an open game-winning shot. The dust-up that resulted eventually brought down Green’s suspension.
Playing 42 minutes in the 121-116 overtime loss in Los Angeles, Green says that he’s still getting acclimated to being back on the court. He also noted that the Warriors coaching staff has talked about placing the All-Star forward on a minutes restriction to ease him back into shape.
While Green was held scoreless on Thursday night, he did experience a breakthrough, though. At the 10:53 mark of the first quarter, he linked up with Durant on the fast break dunk.
The play elicited smiles and high-fives from both parties, signaling that, perhaps, the drama of the last three days may be coming to an end, or had at least abated.
Both Green and Durant shot down questions about their reconciliation, with Durant saying forcefully, “Don’t ask me about that again.” Before the game, however, Green spoke the media, stating that the two were “moving forward” from the tiff.
“It wasn’t a great night tonight. Not ideally what we wanted,” Green said after Golden State’s fourth loss of the year. “We’ve got to get better. Continue to build and we’ll be fine.”