The Golden State Warriors are not handling their title defense very well. Having stormed back to the summit of pro basketball on the back of getting Steph Curry and Klay Thompson back healthy in 2021/22, as well as Jordan Poole’s breakout, the Warriors are back to playing mediocre basketball.
They were 10th in the Western Conference at the time of writing and will be in danger of missing the playoffs should the rust continue to spread. The defending NBA champs threw away a chance to bag a road win against the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night. Road wins have been hard to come by for the Dubs so far this season so it would have been pretty encouraging had they gotten that one.
Holding a one-point advantage following a three-pointer from Malik Beasleyin the dying embers, they simply needed to inbound the ball and wait for Utah to send them to the free-throw line. That wasn’t what ended up happening, though. The Warriors got the ball back on the court – they got that part right – but the Jazz got it right back, with Nickeil Alexander-Walker engineering a fast break by forcing a turnover from Poole.
Beasley then found Simone Fontecchio with a pass leading him to the basket for a simple score. The Warriors, in turn, had to launch the ball up the court as they had no timeouts left. Of course, they turned it over again, ending the game to the tune of a 124-123 loss.
“I don’t really know, to be honest,” Poole replied when quizzed on what broke down for Golden State at the end of the contest.
“In my experience, there’s one game like this every year where you leave the building saying, ‘What just happened?’” head coach Steve Kerr said. “You make mistakes down the stretch and you leave the arena just shaking your head, thinking, ‘How did we just let that happen?’”
Klay Thompson, who is one of the best perimeter defenders in the league, was responsible for leaving Beasley open for that three that took the Jazz to within one and would admit falling asleep on the play.
“I just fell asleep. I watched the ball handler get to the rim rather than staying on the 3-point shooter,” The lamented. “That was a dreadful mistake by myself.”
Wednesday’s ending pretty much summed up the Warriors’ season so far. But this was a game that could have gotten things going in another direction. Instead, it’s just another opportunity lost. Where their work on the road is concerned, Golden State has the NBA’s second-worst away record at 2-11.
The Golden State Warriors currently have the WORST NET FTA disparity (-8.1) in the 21st Century. pic.twitter.com/FLdVatMmdL— WarriorsMuse (@WarriorsMuse) December 3, 2022
A victory would have been telling as they battled back from a 12-point deficit in the third quarter, without Curry, Draymond Green, and Andrew Wiggins. While Poole turned out to be the anti-hero at the end, his performance was excellent barring the late turnover.
The 23-year-old scored 36 points and assisted eight baskets while Jonathan Kuminga and Donte DiVincenzo had good games themselves. Kuminga scored 24 on the night, adding five rebounds and four assists – Divincenzo only scored seven points but grabbed nine boards and made three steals in true Draymond Green fashion.
The Dubs have a tough stretch ahead, with the Boston Celtics, the NBA’s best team, up next. They will face the Milwaukee Bucks, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, and Toronto Raptors after that encounter, with games against New York’s teams right after. Kerr’s men can expect to have a fight against the Knicks and Nets, which they play on December 20 and 21 on their respective home floors. You can expect the sportsbooks New York has available to be buzzing for those matchups.
To make things worse, Curry might miss more time following his absence against Utah on Wednesday. The All-Star point guard appeared to suffer an ankle injury during the third quarter of Golden State’s win over the Houston Rockets on December 3. He stayed on the floor and even played Indiana in the next game, when he registered his worst shooting performance of the campaign.
He sat out Wednesday’s game against the Jazz with ankle soreness and the Warriors are yet to release an update on his status. It’s still unknown whether he will be available against the Celtics this coming Saturday.
The Warriors will be on the road from then, until they return home to play the Memphis Grizzlies on Christmas Day. Their handling of this upcoming road trip could go a long way toward defining their season.
The Warriors are easily the best team in the NBA when fully healthy but they’ve still struggled with their core players all available this season and it begs the question: could the dynasty be crumbling?
On the other hand, they have proven that you count them out at your own peril.