OAKLAND — After putting forth one of their best defensive efforts on Thursday night by holding the Indiana Pacers to 89 points — a season-low for Warriors opponents — Golden State head coach Steve Kerr praised his team for its effort and execution.
Less than 48 hours later, Kerr had the exact opposite feeling after his team suffered its worst loss since Kerr took over as head coach in 2014.
In a 126-91 blowout at the hands if the Dallas Mavericks at Oracle Arena, Golden State looked lethargic, slow and — perhaps most concerning — uninterested. The 35-point shellacking comes as Golden State’s worst home loss since 2007.
“Defensively we were not connected … We just couldn’t pull together,” Kerr said. “We never could get any traction in the game.”
On Friday, the Warriors announced that starting point guard Stephen Curry would be given Saturday night off for rest. According to Kerr, the team had been planning a night off for their leading scorer for several weeks.
With Curry not even in the building after a night of celebrating at his wife’s 30th birthday party in San Francisco, the Warriors opted to start backup point guard Quinn Cook in his place.
In similar fashion to Thursday night, which saw the Warriors get off to one of their worst starts of the season, Golden State opened the first quarter by giving up a 14-2 run. Misses on six of the Warriors’ first seven shots of the game heavily played into the lopsided beginning of the game.
“I really think it is just us missing shots,” Warriors forward Kevin Durant said. “It’s something that I can’t pinpoint for everybody but I think that’s been the issue.”
As their shots rattled out of the rim, bounced off of the sides of the backboards and landed in the arms of Mavericks rebounders, the Warriors found themselves hard pressed to stop a Dallas offense that scored 35 first-quarter points.
Leading the charge on Saturday was Mavericks’ forward Dirk Nowitzki, who started his final game at Oracle Arena.
Hitting four of the first five shots he attempted, the seven-footer scored 10 of his season-high 21 points in the first quarter. Two long-range triples showcased the smooth stroke that has defined Nowitzki’s game over the last 20 years.
“I feel like everybody is pushing him out the league … he looks great,” Durant said. “He really looked great tonight.”
Along with Nowitzki, Mavericks rookie guard Luka Doncic continued the stellar play for Dallas as he scored 11 in the first after hitting three triples himself.
Several of Doncic’s threes came off of step-back moves. After being hounded on several possessions by Draymond Green and DeMarcus Cousins, Doncic used his crossover and step-back to create space, splashing the trio of deep balls in the big men’s faces.
The three-point barrage from Dallas would be a problem for Golden State for the entire first half, as the Mavericks hit 13 of the 27 triples they hoisted before halftime.
Dallas forward Max Kleber knocked down a team-high four 3-pointers in the half, leading the Mavericks with 16 first-half points.
According to Kerr, many of those long-distance shots were the product of defensive lapses.
“A lot breakdowns,” Kerr said. “A lot of miscommunication or lack of communication. Give [Dallas] credit. They executed, they made 21 threes. You’ve got to make ‘em even if you’re open. I thought they played exceptionally well.”
For the Warriors, some of their poor defensive execution came from what Green described as lack of energy.
“You could kind of sense that the energy wasn’t there,” Green said. “That’s kinda normal in a game like that. It made sense that we almost lost by 40.”
By halftime, the Warriors were down by 28 points. Despite 18 points from Durant — who finished with a game-high 25 — and 14 points from Cousins, all five Warriors starters were in double-digit negatives in terms of their plus-minus ratings.
Unable to make up any ground in the first 10 minutes of the second half, Kerr waived the white flag by inserting all of his reserves for the final 14 minutes of the game.
“We’ve just got to flush this one down the toilet and move on,” Kerr said. “There’s just not much to do.”
With the loss, the Warriors also fall to second in the Western Conference standings, as the Denver Nuggets gain possession of the tentative No. 1 seed. Ironically enough, while the Warriors hold the best road record in the NBA (24-12) , they now hold the 10th best home record in the league (25-11).
“I don’t think we’re that bad at home,” Warriors guard Klay Thompson said. “You don’t want to look back on this too much. We have a game tomorrow so the only thing we can do at this point is look forward and bounce back.”