By C.J. Peterson
Special to S.F. Examiner
OAKLAND — Upon returning to the Bay Area after an 0-3 road trip in Texas, Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant said the team felt “rejuvenated” during pre-game shootaround on Wednesday.
Unfortunately for Durant and the Warriors, being short on energy and freshness has not been the cause for Golden State’s recent skid. Rather, it’s been a lack of focus and ability to execute, as demonstrated by the Warriors’ 123-95 defeat to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night, losing their fourth straight game for the first time in six seasons.
“We’ve got to get better in every dynamic,” said Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, who has never lost four in a row in his tenure with Golden State. “Right now it’s tough to get out of this slog that we’re in and it’s a team effort.”
For the seventh consecutive game, Golden State was without Stephen Curry (adductor). In addition, the Warriors were without Draymond Green (foot/toe) for the sixth time in eight games.
In their place, the Warriors would start Quinn Cook and Andre Iguodala, while inserting Damian Jones back into the starting lineup. Along with Durant and Klay Thompson, who were also on the floor, it was the Warriors seventh different starting lineup this season.
While starting Cook and Iguodala brought patience and calm to the floor, the Warriors offense continued to struggle as it did in all three games of the Texas Triangle last week.
In the first quarter, the Warriors scored a season-low total of 18 points on 36 percent shooting.
“It’s tough for us to find the rim right now scoring it,” said Durant. “We just aren’t scoring the ball well.”
In addition to the issues of executing and getting the ball in the basket the Warriors had troubles with taking care of the basketball as well.
By halftime, the Warriors had 10 turnovers to Oklahoma City’s four. Of the 10, three were committed by Durant.
While some of the turnovers were a product of strong pressure from the Thunder, several also came lackadaisical passes in transition.
Perhaps the worst came on an outlet pass off of a rebound, bound for Cook, who had at least five steps on the nearest Thunder defender on his way to the basket.
“I’ve just got to be smarter passing the ball,” Durant said. “They also are long and packing the paint in and trying to get the ball out of my hands a lot. I’ve just got to be better with handling the ball.”
Beyond their eventual 17 giveaways, the Warriors also gave away possessions on the glass, being out-rebounded 61-41 overall, and allowing Oklahoma City to grab 18 offensive rebounds. That added up to the Thunder taking 23 more shots than Golden State.
In the middle of the rebounding domination was Oklahoma City center Steven Adams, who snagged 11 rebounds including seven on the offensive side of the ball.
“[Adams] is one of the best centers in the league,” Kerr said.
Tasked with containing Adams for the majority of the night was Jones, who did not fare well against the Australian native.
Often forgetting to box Adams out, Jones was outworked, out-hustled and simply overpowered under the basket. To make matters worse, the 23-year old center would secure a total of zero rebounds in 21 minutes of play.
“Steven Adams is a load down there,” Durant said. “We’ve got to help [Jones] out actually in coming down and cracking back as well. We could have did a better job for him.”
For the majority of the second half, the Warriors found themselves in a double digit hole despite their best efforts to close the gap.
With a 13-4 run to open the third quarter, Golden State cut Oklahoma City’s lead to five with 6:42 left in the period. Unfortunately, a big scoring burst off of the bench from former Atlanta Hawk Dennis Schroder — who scored a game-high 32 points — would silence any push to get over the hump.
The loss was the seventh of the season for the Warriors, and their fourth straight, marking the worst losing streak of the Steve Kerr era — which began in 2014. They had two separate losing streaks of four games or more during the 2012-13 season: from February 5 to 19 (six losses), and from February 26 to March 2 (four losses) under Mark Jackson.
“We’ve got to clean up all of that,” Kerr said. “We’ll find our way out. We’ve got better days ahead but right now we’re in a tough go.”