The cracks could not be hidden forever.
As the losses pile up, so does the frustration. And as much as the Warriors preach about big-picture over small-picture, steps over results, flare-ups will happen when you lose 12 of 13.
For Draymond Green, the moment came in the third quarter, spiking the ball after a Rudy Gobert layup and earning a technical. A quarter later, Marquese Chriss apparently reached his breaking point, getting tossed along with Utah’s Tony Bradley. Steve Kerr’s frustration peaked in the early going, when he watched as the Jazz, on the second night of a back-to-back, immediately demonstrated just how better a team they are.
“We got demoralized in the first half,” Kerr said after the Warriors’ 129-96 loss at Chase Center on Wednesday, in which they were down 22 at the half. “That was probably the biggest disappointment. I just didn’t love our energy, body language. But that’s sometimes the way it goes when you’re struggling.”
Everyone handles the struggling differently (though Green does predictably, the technical his NBA-leading 12th, four shy of a suspension). Perhaps the most zen about the woes is a star who is experiencing the pain second-hand. Klay Thompson does not have to be on the court to teach his teammates how best to handle adversity.
“I was talking to Klay a little bit, fourth quarter on the bench,” Glenn Robinson III said after his nondescript 10-point game, “and he just kind of talked to me and told me that, these guys, we got a lot of young guys. We got a lot of guys with almost zero experience in this league and in closing out games and playing tough games and getting through the season.
“I think that’s something that we got to learn and kind of be patient, remember that. Talking to Draymond, talking to Klay, just trying to remain positive and help them out as much as possible.”
Whether the frustration is affecting on-court play is debatable; Utah, who improved to 31-13, may not be the best barometer for the woebegone Warriors (10-36). But the Jazz, who had every excuse to coast, got to every loose ball. They outrebounded Golden State, 56-37. The longer the game wore on, the less interested the Warriors looked.
If Kerr can’t get effort from this group, much of the progress of the season — and there has been progress this season — is lost. The coach suggested the January doldrums can be the dog days of NBA winter. Games drag, and so do feet.
“We didn’t have the energy,” D’Angelo Russell said, the only Warrior who acquitted himself well in a 26-point effort.
Perhaps Eric Paschall — one of those young guys — has been talking with Thompson, too. He didn’t want to remember a game worth forgetting.
“We can’t dwell in the past,” said the rookie who’s generally looked better since hitting a December wall. “We’ve got a game Friday. Just keep continuing to play hard for each other and try to get better every day. I feel like that’s all we can do.”
That much, at least, is true.