© Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
That was hard to watch. Tonight, a team which redefined the way NBA teams play offense, seemingly forgot how to play offense. The Warriors were negligent in their passing, shot the ball with the inefficiency of a G-League team, and seemed to give up defensively in the fourth quarter. It culminated in a 107-86 loss to the Houston Rockets.
James Harden scored 27 points for the Rockets on an inefficient 8-of-23 shooting, but his inefficiency was outmatched by the Warriors own inefficiency. As a team they made just 5 of their 19 3-pointers, while the Rockets went 15-of-46 from deep.
Here are five observations from tonight’s game:
The Warriors’ most valuable player is Stephen Curry
What has become clear more than anything from the Draymond Green-Kevin Durant spat and the team’s past three games, is that when Stephen Curry gets hurt, all hell breaks loose. With Curry this season, the Warriors have been fun, playing relaxed, and blowing teams out. Since his injury, it’s been bad.
The Warriors lost to the Milwaukee Bucks in the game Curry got hurt, then beat the Brooklyn Nets easily. Then, the infamous loss to the Los Angeles Clippers took place, which was followed by an underwhelming, seven-point win against the Atlanta Hawks. Tonight makes the Warriors 2-3 in their last five games.
In the first half, the Warriors had just nine assists compared to eight turnovers. Despite playing fantastic defense on the Rockets and limiting them to 47 points, they entered the half trailing 47-41 because their offense was inept.
That’s the eighth time since 2014-15 (344 games including tonight) that they’ve scored 41 points or less in a first half. For those of you who like percentages, that’s 2.32% of the Warriors’ last 344 games.
Still, Curry has value on the bench. Even though he’s weeks away from coming back to play, he had Green, Durant and DeMarcus Cousins smiling as the Warriors trailed by 25 points.
Well, for the Warriors sake, at least the blowout L is giving Steph Curry some time to bring KD and Draymond (and Cousins) together on the bench for a light-hearted conversation pic.twitter.com/IhylhtkovQ
— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) November 16, 2018
Draymond and Durant, together again
We all knew that after Green’s one-game suspension, he and Durant would be forced to jump right back onto the court together. Read whatever you want to into Green’s pregame address of the situation and Durant tapping him on the chest during the game encouragingly. We don’t know what their relationship is like after the Clippers game. All we can do is assess their on-court performance.
And, much like Durant did against the Hawks, he scored the ball inefficiently (6-of-15 from the field) but was perfect from the line (8-for-8) for 20 points. Green, nursing a toe sprain and announced to likely be on limited minutes, looked out of sync with a collectively disjointed Warriors offense. In games like these, when things don’t go smoothly, Green has a knack for pushing the Warriors out of their rut. That was not the case tonight.
Green finished with 0 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds and 5 turnovers.
This was not the Western Conference Finals
Remember last year? When the Rockets were the first team besides the Cleveland Cavaliers that posed a genuine challenged to the Warriors? Well, both the Curry-less Warriors, nor the Rockets – still trying to find themselves after losing their associate head coach (and defensive mastermind) Jeff Bdzelik to retirement and defensive leaders in Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute to free agency – looked poor.
But the Rockets recovered those defensive instincts they displayed last year, or at least were made to look solid with the Warriors’ offensive ineptitude. Even with that defensive performance, the Rockets looked mighty beatable tonight. Unfortunately, the Warriors were worse.
Klay needs to step up
While it’s easy for blame to be shouldered onto Kevin Durant and Draymond Green – and understandably so – Klay Thompson can often evade some of the blame due to his understated nature. But Thompson is an All-Star player, and without Curry, it’s more important than ever to step up. Tonight, and in the past two games, Thompson has struggled, despite what his points totals show.
He entered tonight’s game shooting a career-low 35.5 percent from 3-point range. In the Warriors’ loss to the Clippers, he finished with 31 points, but went 5-of-16 from behind the arc and 13-of-31 from the field. He had 24 points against the Hawks, but shot 8-of-19 from the field.
Tonight, Thompson had just 10 points on 5-of-16 shooting and 0-of-5 shooting from 3-point range. In combination with his past three games, that’s a concerning stretch. Without Curry on the floor, the Warriors can’t afford inefficiency from Klay.
Granted, when he started off the season poorly, he broke out for 13-three game to break Curry’s NBA record. He’s good for an absurd shooting night. But when Curry isn’t playing, the Warriors need solid, consistent nights, not one breakout after a few rough games.
The Warriors passed the ball plenty… to the Rockets
There are few things the Warriors are more renowned for than their ball movement. Tonight, that ball movement was nonexistent, except when the Warriors passed to the Rockets.
In the first half, they had nine assists and eight turnovers. By the time the nightmarish outing had concluded, the Warriors had 18 assists and 17 turnovers. That ratio isn’t going to win many, if any basketball games.