Fans slithered down the stairs at Oracle Arena, dragging their feet on the once lustrous golden carpet. The mood was oddly quiet after Monday night’s game. People gazed down at their shoes. This was a new feeling for the Golden State Warriors faithful: defeat.
Minutes earlier, their team straight choked. (I’m from Sacramento, so I know choking when I see it.) The Dubs blew a 13-point halftime lead. The visiting Oklahoma City Thunder harassed the “Death Lineup” to just 1 of 10 shooting from behind the arc and only 14 points in the final quarter.
But don’t dwell on the fact that, for the first time since last year’s NBA Finals, the guys in blue and gold blew home-court advantage. Remember how that series ended? Exactly.
Repeating is never easy — or at least that’s what the overpaid sports analysts on TV say. But here are eight things the Warriors must do to make taking it all again a little easier.
Defend home court
Well, so much for that. Oklahoma City snatched two games in San Antonio last series. Who saw that happening? That’s double the number of games that the Spurs lost during 41 regular-season home-court appearances. And this after the Spurs torched the Thunder in game one, in San Antonio, by 32 points!
And now they took one in Oakland.
What’s this mean? It means the Warriors foregoing home court could lead to an all-bets-are-off scenario. Bad news for a team that lost only nine games all season.
But it’s also not the end of the world. In the words of Al Davis: Just win, baby.
Step up perimeter D
Who wasn’t having nightmares about Allen Crabbe draining open trays last week?
The Thunder’s unsung guards — mostly Dion Waiters — are going to find their way open, and the Thunder (like the young Blazers) will move the rock and get them shots. Warriors need to step up their perimeter D and converge on three-point shooters.
That’s going to be hard when, like Damian Lillard, Kevin Durant and Russell Westrbook will be chucking up shots from farther behind the line than most squads they face during the year. Dame brutalized the Dubs from as far back as 32 feet (a taste of their own medicine) in crunch time. If those shots start going in this series with any regularity, that will be a problem.
Don’t get torched
Warriors gave up 104.1 points on average per game during the regular season. Not incredible. But they held opponents to 43.5 percent from the field, third best in the league. That’s solid.
But, in the playoffs, Golden State has given up more points per game than any remaining postseason team. That’s not saying much, sure. But they allowed a ridiculous 114 points a game versus the Trailblazers. And the let the Thunder tally 108 on Monday night. This is the playoffs: A shootout is not the answer.
Be on the rebound
Remember that game against Oklahoma City when Steph Curry sank the nearly-half-court, 37-footer in overtime? Of course you do. That was the East Bay Web Gem of a lifetime.
But do you remember that the Thunder out-rebounded the Warriors by 35 that game? Thirty-five rebounds. And the Thunder, lead by Steven Adams, out-boarded the Dubs on Monday.
You don’t win in the playoffs if you don’t crash the boards. Period.
Make them cough it up
Russell Westbrook is like Russell Wilson on the one-yard line with less than a minute to go in the Super Bowl. He likes to cough it up. So, Warriors need to make sure Westbrook — who averaged 4.3 turnovers a game during the regular season — doubles that number in a few games. Unlike on Monday.
During the regular season, the Warriors averaged just 9.7 turnovers against the Thunder, the lowest total of any team in the league. Until Monday, when they lost the rock 14 times (Curry responsible for half of those).
OK, so maybe the Warriors should be less concerned with forcing turnovers and, instead, focus on protecting the ball.
Klay Thompson needs to stay hot as ish
During the first two series of the postseason, Thompson averaged a smidgen better percentage from behind the arc than he was from the field. Baffling. And during those games, what with Curry’s absence, he’s tallied five more points per game than in the regular season. In game five against the Trailblazers, Thompson was vital. He’d racked up 33 points — at the end of the third quarter. On Monday, he went for 25 — but went cold in the fourth.
Anyway, Thompson is playing out of his mind this postseason — and he’ll likely need to go even more loco for the Dubs to repeat.
Shut down … Steve Adams and Enes Kanter?
Yup. Will Adams average a double-double for the series, as he did on Monday? Hope not. Hell, I’m hoping he shoots worse than 67 percent from the charity stripe. And will Kanter defend the rim, swat balls and scoop up defensive rebounds at will? If so, could be a short series.
Thunder haven’t been healthy in the playoffs for years. Last time they were, they made it to the finals. Warriors are somewhat healthy — Curry’s knee pain persists, and Andrew Bogut is a question mark. The team’s going to need some good juju. Eat your broccoli, players.
They’re also going to need some luck from the refs. Warriors don’t want another Scott Foster moment, a la when he tossed Shaun Livingston in the Blazers series.
In the end, with two teams like these, who are playing at such a high level, it’s not really about execution and hitting shots, right?
It’s about hitting lucky shots, and getting those fortunate breaks down the stretch.