For not the first time this season, the Golden State Warriors let go of a game they seemingly had control of against the LA Clippers on Saturday afternoon at Crypto.com Arena.
The Warriors had a 22-point lead early in the third-quarter, before the Clippers stars mounted a fightback to quickly make a game of it in the second-half. Golden State still led by five with possession and less than 90 seconds left, only for Paul George to sink their hearts with what was ultimately the three-point game-winner with 8.9 seconds remaining.
The narrative surrounding the Golden State Warriors would be so much different had they closed a number of winnable games so far this season.
The Clippers only ever led for those final 8.9 seconds, yet many Warrior fans would be hardly surprised with the manner in which the game finished. It's been the tale of the team's season, and things could be so much different had they actually finished some of the games they've been in prime position to win.
Speaking in the postgame, Golden State forward Draymond Green stated the group still needs to "learn how to win" amid their second 20+ point blown lead in the space of three games.
""We're headed in the right direction. I think you got to learn how to win. Every year groups are different, and each year that particular group has to learn how to win. That's tested a bit, especially with the guys we've got out". "
Saturday's afternoon's game was the fifth game the Warriors had lost by four points or less. They also lost another by seven in overtime to the Oklahoma City Thunder, with the game having only got to that point thanks to a Chet Holmgren buzzer-beating three where Golden State chose not to foul.
Had the franchise even just split those six games with a 3-3 record, the outlook would be so much more positive and optimistic than its present state -- they'd be 12-8 rather than their current 9-11 record that has them 11th in the Western Conference.
While Green's right in the Warriors needing to learn how to win, that's somewhat concerning given they're closing games with three future hall-of-famers who've won four championships together. Many of these failures down the stretch of games can be attributed to Green, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, along with some of the decision-making of 10-year head coach Steve Kerr.
Thompson, Green and Curry took the last three shots of Saturday's game, each of which came up short. The two-time MVP had two points and missed his final five field-goal attempts over the last 15 minutes of the game. Thompson and Green combined for 38 points for the game, but just five points on 2-7 shooting in the fourth-quarter.
With Golden State up four and 38 seconds left to play, Curry was subbed out for defensive purposes. That's fine, except for the fact Corey Joseph was the one Kerr subbed in rather than Jonathan Kuminga who would've been better suited to LA's biggest threats in Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. After the timeout, the pair combined for an easy layup within three seconds, proving crucial in the Clippers ability to execute a 2-for-1 and ultimately win the game.
Yes, the Warriors need to learn how to win as a group, but at the same time that might be slightly unfair on the young players who are largely doing their job effectively. The franchise will only go as far as their best and most experienced players take them, and right now they're failing to make the plays when it matters most.