If you’re the type of Warriors fan who’s been waiting for the other shoe to drop ever since the team exploded out of the starting gate, well, here’s your chance to gloat.
Golden State (33-27) dropped its fourth straight game on Saturday, a disheartening 104-97 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers (23-34) that pushed the Warriors even closer to the dreaded .500 mark. The Dubs are just six marks above even for the first time since Dec. 8 entering the final 22 games of the season.
What made the loss the most disappointing in a string of frustrating defeats was the fact that the Sixers had lost seven straight themselves before using Golden State as their personal cure-all. The Warriors looked as though they, too, could handle Philadelphia, building a ten point lead in the third quarter. But from that point on, shots stopped falling, the defense crumbled and the Warriors were faced with the prospects of a long flight back to the Bay Area.
Amazingly, despite losing their tenth game in the last 13 tries, the Dubs remain the Western Conference’s sixth seed. With of 16 of their final 22 at home, the Warriors aren’t in as much trouble as they should be in the midts of their worst stretch of play of the season, but they must get hot soon.
Performances like Saturday’s won’t cut it at Oracle Arena. The Warriors’ defense, hailed as completely overhauled through the first half of the season, continued to flounder in Philly, allowing Sixers’ guard Evan Turner to finish one assist shy of a triple double and Jrue Holliday to complement Turner with 27 points of his own. Philadelphia, held to just 20 points in the first quarter, posted back-to-back 31-point efforts in the second and third. By the time the final period began, the outcome seemed inevitable.
“Our offense is not going to win ballgames,” Mark Jackson said. “Defensively is how we got [our fast start] done, and taking care of the basketball, and those two things are hurting us right now.”
The offense, though, wasn’t stellar, either. Stephen Curry scored 30 for the third time on the road trip, and Klay Thompson finished 7-of-12 from three, but little else was clicking for Golden State. Only two Warriors took more than two foul shots, indicating that the team was more content to settle for poor outside shots than to drive and draw contact. The Sixers played at a higher physical level, and Golden State wore down as the game progressed.
Once again, the bench featured one standout performer and nothing after. Carl Landry added 12 points, but Jarrett Jack struggled to find space to shoot. Draymond Green, Richard Jefferson and Kent Bazemore, on the floor for 16 minutes between them, did not score a single point.
We’ve known from day one that Golden State was a team built to win at home, but the disappointing results on the road trip have made those games a necessity rather than a luxury. Should the Warriors continue to stumble upon their return to Oracle Arena, they could see their once qite comfortable playoff position become much more cramped. A win on Monday against the lowly Toronto Raptors is mandatory.
Golden State should have enough firepower at home to finish its playoff push, but there’s no question the good vibes from a month or so ago have vanished. The Warriors are fighting for their lives for the first time since Jackson took the helm. How they respond will go a long way towards determining the future direction of the team.