OAKLAND — Over the past 24 hours, the Golden State Warriors have lost in overtime to the Los Angeles Clippers, flown back up to the Bay Area, suspended Draymond Green for a pair of shouting matches with Kevin Durant and then tipped off against the three-win Atlanta Hawks in front of Oracle Arena’s 300th consecutive sell-out.
With Green not even in the building — the consequence of his suspension — and Stephen Curry still on the bench with a groin strain, Golden State was a shade of the team that’s won back-to-back NBA titles.
After a lackluster first half, the Warriors — behind Jonas Jerebko’s best game of the year — ran off one of their patented third-quarter barrages en route to a 110-103 win, a too-close victory over a far inferior opponent.
“I’m proud of them,” said head coach Steve Kerr. “Not an easy game to go back-to-back. Coming in, a little fatigued, a little emotionally spent, we had to grind it out.”
Afterwards, Durant tersely asked for the media to ask about the game — in which he scored 29 points — and not about his shouting match with Green at the end of regulation against the Clippers, or the reported locker room confrontation that followed Monday night’s loss. Given the lack of energy the Warriors displayed against the moribund Hawks without the fiery Green, Durant didn’t get his wish.
Asked if he and Green had been able to hash anything out since the incident, which reportedly included Green calling Durant a “b*tch,” according to a report by Yahoo! Sports, Durant answered, “No.”
Will that happen any time soon?
“I’m sure it will,” Durant said. “We’ve got a long season ahead.”
Asked whether the team appreciates Green’s fire much of the time, Durant said simply, “Yeah.” Will the tiff make the team stronger? “Who knows?” Durant said. “We’ll see.”
Asked about the nature of his long friendship with Green, Durant was dismissive.
“I don’t really think that even matters at this point,” Durant said. “We just had a game. Anybody going to talk about the game?”
Durant’s impending free agency — his third go in four offseasons — was shot down by both Myers and Kerr in the pregame presser as a reason for locker room tensions that erupted on Monday.
“I’m going to keep that in-house,” Durant said, when asked if Green crossed a line. “That’s what we do here. Obviously, I know you guys got a job to do, but I’m not trying to get anybody no headlines. What happened happened. We’re trying to move on and just play basketball.”
That’s what both Myers and Kerr said the team would do in a strange pregame press conference.
On a day without morning shootaround — a consequence of the quick travel back from Los Angeles — the Warriors had nothing to do but sit and stew on what had happened between two of their five All-Stars, and it showed.
“Guys are just in their houses all day, so we get here, you try to go through your normal routine, and obviously, Draymond being our leader, being our guy, you notice when he’s not there,” said Quinn Cook, who started in place of Curry. “We try to fill that void, but obviously, you can’t replace a Draymond Green. I’m just happy we got a win, and guys stepped up.”
Cook finished with 18 points and four boards on 8-of-18 shooting, his sixth double-digit scoring night in his last nine games, and his second-highest output of the season.
“I think we’re all professional,” Cook said. “I think we all love each other. We’re with each other every day for nine months. Brothers are going to fight. Brothers are going to get into it.”
Green’s absence, though, hung over the proceedings for the first 30 minutes, even as a mid-third-quarter on-court marriage proposal saw the bride-to-be dressed in a Green jersey.
“His presence has been part of this team for a while, even before I got here, and he’s been a huge staple in this organization,” Durant said. “Obviously, it’s definitely weird not having him around, and just everything that went down, but that’s what happens. Shit happens in the NBA.”
Golden State trailed Atlanta by three points at the half, led by a punchless 4-of-10 for 15 points by Durant.
The fact that Golden State (11-3) even needed a 33-24 third quarter to beat the 3-10 Hawks showed just how much the Warriors missed both Green and Curry’s respective attitudes and skill sets.
The Warriors as a team shot 17-of-44 (39.5 percent) before the break, while the Hawks — a team modeling itself after Golden State’s attack — shot 19-of-44 (43.2 percent) from the field.
Without Green’s fire and Curry’s sense of joy (and more importantly, his 3-point stroke), Golden State didn’t seem to have much spark on either end of the floor in the first half, as the Hawks out-Warriors’d the Warriors, outscoring Golden State 15-3 on the break and going 8-of-19 from three (42.1 percent) before halftime.
Both Golden State and a largely-subdued Oracle rounded into form in the third.
With nine minutes to go, Durant hit a lean-back baseline jumper to give Golden State a 59-58 lead. Several possessions later, Klay Thompson hit Quinn Cook in the left corner for one of his two 3-pointers on the night, giving Golden State a 65-60 lead, drawing the loudest cheers yet as the two high-fived.
After a hellacious Damian Jones block, Jerebko hit his third triple of the night, and Jones hammered home a one-handed dunk, shaking Oracle awake as Golden State ran the lead to 70-60, thanks to a 17-2 run with 5:43 to go in the third.
Jerebko, who started at small forward in place of Green, drew arguably the biggest cheer of the night when, with just over two minutes to go in the third, he leaped over the Hawks bench to get a loose ball. He finished with 14 points and 13 boards on 5-of-10 shooting, and 4-of-7 from 3-point land, with his father in attendance, all the way from Sweden. After the game, Jerebko introduced his father to owner Joe Lacob.
“Jonas was great,” Kerr said. “He was our MVP tonight. The start was just to get some spacing on the floor early in the game, and I like his rebounding and his aggressiveness. I thought he played a really solid game.”
On Tuesday, Thompson recovered from a 4-of-11 first half to hit four of his next six, including a pair of 3-pointers. He finished 8-of-19 for 24 points. Twenty-four hours earlier, he had helped separate Green and Durant, when the two got into things after Green fumbled the ball in the closing seconds of regulation, instead of passing to an open Durant.
“They’re grown,” Thompson said. “It’ll be fine. I love both of those guys. At the end of the day, we’re on the same team with the same goal, and that’s the three-peat. I don’t think either of them will lose sight of that, whether it’s personal agenda or whatever. I think people will get far past it and we’ll get to that goal eventually.”
Durant finished 9-of-23, the type of performance that last year drew private criticism from Green, his teammate on the 2016 Olympic gold medal-winning team, and one of the four Warriors All-Stars who recruited Durant in the Hamptons.
“It’s night-in and night-out, you can pretty much mark down 25-30 points, whether he shoots the ball well or not,” Kerr said. “He’s going to get to the line — 11-for-11 from the free throw line. Not a great shooting night for him, but carried us and made some big shots for us.”
Kerr paused and looked around the postgame interview room. His team had been emotionally spent. He and Myers, during their pregame press conference, looked exhausted. That was even before tip-off.