12:38 am ET
BOSTON — In the first three quarters of Thursday’s game between the Golden State Warriors and the Boston Celtics, Stephen Curry and company looked like themselves. Coach Steve Kerr went as far as to say they looked like a championship team.
But then, in the fourth quarter and through overtime, everything they had brought together unraveled…again.
And now, after a 121-118 loss to the Celtics, the Warriors are 22-23 at midseason and only 5-18 on the road.
“We’re capable, but it’s a matter of execution and ability to sustain it,” Curry said. “There is another level that we haven’t reached yet [to] in terms of compiling a full 48 minutes.”
The warriors are in full search mode. They’ve been there all season. And so far they have found almost nothing.
They don’t panic or show much concern, at least publicly. Klay Thompson is resting their long-adopted mindset of: If we get into the playoffs healthy, we can beat anyone.
To a certain extent, they still believe that. But there’s also an understanding that this season isn’t like any other.
“Last year [we] started 18-2, we had some rough patches but at least there was a segment of the season you could say we figured out,” Curry said after Golden State lost to the Chicago Bulls on Jan. 15. “We could have had that in a game or two, but we haven’t had a stretch where we can consistently say we figured it out. They will lose games from time to time… But a lot of that is self-inflicted or not being able to prove that we have the identity we need.
Golden State can submit its game against the Celtics under the umbrella Curry spoke of.The Golden State Warriors fell to 22-23 and a miserable 5-18 on the road after a loss to the Boston Celtics. Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
For most of their dynastic run over the past 10 years, the Warriors have been known for their great third quarter. They configured different versions of closing small ball lineups, which they called “death lineups.” The slogan “Strength in Numbers” was well deserved.
But this season everything seems off.
Thursday’s game in Boston saw one of their better third quarters in a while, but they couldn’t slam the door. Their bench wasn’t nearly as productive as last season.
“There has to be a sense of urgency, but I don’t think that’s how we play… If you don’t have a constant urgency, you’re going to lose,” Draymond Green said after their Chicago loss.
He continued, “I think the point [where we’ll turn a corner] will come, but you have to build on it. You can’t take two steps forward or three steps back. It has to be a constant build-up…that constant build-up hasn’t started yet.”
Golden State is far from the first title-seeking team to falter halfway through the season. Just a year ago, the Celtics found themselves with a 25-25 record in 50 games.
After losing to the Atlanta Hawks on January 28, the Celtics went on a nine-game winning streak. They lost just six games in the rest of the regular season en route to the NBA Finals.
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The warriors will now attempt to follow a similar script to which they are familiar.
Two seasons ago without Thompson, Golden State was hovering around .500 before winning 15 of its last 20 games and eventually losing in the play-in tournament.
The warriors have not expressed exactly what is holding them back. They’ve said they don’t know why they can’t string together good plays – or even a series of good decisions in some cases.
Kerr took the first step in finding a spark for his team by changing his starting lineup against the Celtics, something he said will remain with him for the time being. Jordan Poole started in place of Kevon Looney and was joined by Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, Curry and Green.
“We’re halfway through and we’re at .500. Let’s try something different,” Kerr said.
There is still time for the warriors to find themselves. And while Curry says they can’t rest on their laurels and expect everything to suddenly click, there’s a measure of consolation given their experience.
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And that keeps her from worrying.
“We have a core group that has won titles,” Kerr said. “I have a lot of faith in all these guys. They went through everything together and had great success. Getting through the NBA season is a long road…it’s not easy. But I have no doubt that we have enough. And the guys know how to pull that off.”