SAN FRANCISCO — With Klay Thompson 20 feet to the left and Draymond Green 20 feet to the right in the Warriors’ large locker room, Stephen Curry sat in the middle. There is no one between them. It was quiet. More than an hour into the Warriors’ worst Game 6 loss to the Kings, every other player left, leaving the trio to themselves and their own thoughts.
They search the world as if trying to recharge their batteries and desire once more. As if they’ve already dealt with the huge disappointment of this shockingly lackluster performance. As if they had already said what they needed to say to themselves and their teammates. As if silently summoning what they left behind. Plugging back into what it was that made them great for so long. Now to find out what that means.
In my opinion, this was the most disappointing Warriors performance since Curry, Klay and Draymond started playing in the playoffs in 2013. . It was really weird to see a team that had achieved so much go out so spectacularly.
Did this entire Warriors dynasty suddenly expire on national television Friday night? Are the Warriors past their best moments? Game 7 at Golden 1 Center on Sunday, with a 12:30 p.m. tipoff, will see the fastest game-to-game turnaround in this long, grinding series.
“It’s up to us to go to Sacramento and do everything we did tonight — but the opposite,” Clay said at his news conference, moments after a quiet moment in the locker room. “I know we’ll respond. I know this team. I know these guys. I’ve played with them at the highest level and I know what we’re capable of and we’ll respond like the champions we are on Sunday.
They certainly have earned this level of confidence. Last season the Warriors won their fourth championship of the era. They have thrived through many difficult times. They won Game 5 a few days ago in Sacramento. They went to Houston and won Game 7 again in 2018. But they were young then, Kevin Durant was there, and they weren’t done playing at home.
So it’s different than anything Curry, Klay and Draymond have ever encountered. It was certainly different than what their younger teammates faced, and it all came down to defensive mistakes, rushed shots, failed block outs and turnovers on Friday.
It’s fair to ask that this is the first time: Are the Warriors too tired for this? Too old? Not deep enough to survive the games of three basemen and Jordan Poole and Andrew Wiggins? That wasn’t all that happened in the Kings’ dominant, multi-layered 118-99 win on Friday, but the Kings played fast, confident and aggressive. On their home court with a chance to end the streak, the Warriors played slowly, sloppy and a bit distracted.
If they can’t find the energy to shut down the Kings in this situation, how can the Warriors make it to Sunday? How do you hit the Kings hard after being so worn out within 48 hours?
“I don’t know if it’s an energy thing or a focus thing, or whatever it is, but you have to learn those lessons quickly,” Curry said. “Because we put ourselves in a situation where we have to be a team that plays with desperation, and obviously in Game 7 on the road, there’s a belief that we can do that. Every guy has a belief that it’s going to be on the floor; that we can make the necessary adjustments.
“If it’s an energy thing, you can control and fix it. You have to accept the challenge in front of us and try to get the job done.
Curry, for his part, said he was fine with the extended minutes he played in the series; Of course, he wasn’t going to admit it even if he realized it. But fatigue may not be the right word for what plagued the Warriors on Friday and has plagued them all season. Curry is certainly capable of winning a game or series by himself, and came close to giving the Warriors a shot in the fourth quarter. Clay, who admitted he had a terrible Game 6 (and a minus-28), could explode at any moment. Draymond, coming off the bench for the third straight game, was solid Friday.
No, it’s not just athletic fatigue. The Kings are getting tired, too, and certainly looked a little tired at the end of Game 5. Friday is the wrong time for the Warriors’ biggest problems to surface all at once. This often happens when you are a little older than you used to be.
The Warriors needed a big performance from Poole (2-of-11 shooting, 7 points, several reckless drives through the teeth of the Sacramento defense) and it just didn’t happen. They need someone else to do something, but the Warriors’ depth isn’t there right now. They needed a strong defensive effort, but the Kings’ small lineup turned the Warriors around the same way the Warriors’ small lineups have danced through their opponents for years.
“I mean, a loss exposes a lot of things because, when you look at the film, you know where to make improvements,” Curry said. “You have to be honest with yourself about what it is.
“You know, that’s the opportunity we have in front of us. I keep saying it’s an opportunity because we have another game to play, and we let that happen, and now we have to, you know, again, use the right game and know how hostile that environment is going to be. . Come with the right focus, come with the right mindset, and like I said, I’m very confident that we can do it.
The Warriors can definitely win Game 7. Let’s not deny that Curry, Klay, Draymond, Wiggins, Poole and Kevon Looney have accomplished more than we expected from the Lakers vs. the Grizzlies on Friday. Some banter played out in the Warriors locker room.
The Warriors should have a lot more fighting to do. They showed it in Game 5. Show again. But it will certainly take some time to shake off what happened on Friday. It takes a toll.
“Yeah, realize we’re trying to protect our throne, we’re human,” Clay said. “We’ve had a lot of bad losses on this dynasty run. But it’s not the fourth loss in the series. It’s the third and it’s the first four. We’re right there and we know we can get one on the road.
“And as a basketball player, especially as an NBA player, you cherish moments like when we get to Game 7 in the playoffs. I know I do and I know other guys do too.
If Clay seems to be trying to convince himself somewhat, so be it. Everything about the Warriors was shaken up in Game 6. All the usual assumptions were kicked out. Curry, Klay and Draymond certainly know how tough it will be on Sunday. In the silence of that locker room Friday, it was palpable.
(Photo of Draymond Green lying on the court after being called for a foul in the fourth quarter Friday: Gary Edmondson/USA TODAY)