The Golden State Warriors dropped yet another game in Florida to a bottom-end Eastern Conference Playoff contender in that of the Orlando Magic Thursday night.
Playing without Kevin Durant, Golden State found itself up 94-89 with just over three minutes left. That’s when Orlando went on a 14-2 run to conclude the game — handing the two-time defending champs yet another loss.
This came on the heels of Dwyane Wade making magic for the Miami Heat in South Beach the night before. Golden State’s record of 43-19 is pretty much on par with what we saw during its championship 2017-18 season.
Though, things seem vastly different this time around. Here’s why.
Struggles against top-end teams: Golden State isn’t getting up for big games.
- Golden State boasts a 3-7 record against the top-five current seeds in the Western Conference.
- This includes an 0-3 mark against the Houston Rockets. Remember, Houston beat Golden State in Oakland last week without James Harden on the court.
- The Warriors are also 3-4 against the top-five seeds in the Eastern Conference.
- Of those four losses, Golden State’s average margin of defeat is 14.3 points per game. It doesn’t matter if the regular-season is irrelevant to this team, this isn’t promising.
Continuity issues: DeMarcus Cousins has not fit in swimmingly.
- Cousins closed out Thursday’s loss to the Magic. That’s primarily because Kevin Durant was sitting. He ultimately finished the game minus-16 in 32 minutes.
- Cousins is minus-47 when on the court over the past seven games. The Warriors are plus-five when he’s sat during that span.
- This All-Star center initially looked like a perfect fit when he made his debut back in January. Since then, he looks like a bull in a china shop. It’s that simple.
The Kevin Durant dynamic: Isolation and hero ball is not the Warriors’ way.
- The Warriors’ path to domination was in the past paved in brilliant ball movement and putting up 30-plus assists per night. They might lead the league in assists again this season, but it’s different.
- With the game on the line, Golden State has relied far too often on iso ball with Durant. Sure he’s been clutch at times. But it’s not Golden State’s brand of basketball under Steve Kerr.
- In games that Durant has scored 29-plus points, Golden State is 16-8. The team is 27-11 when he doesn’t reach that plateau. Doesn’t this say something?
Defense is lacking: More than anything, it’s been about effort.
- Golden State has three stoppers on defense in that of Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green. With an exception of Green, the other two are having down years on that end of the court.
- These Warriors rank in the bottom half of the NBA in defensive rating. It’s been a gradual regression from top-five ratings in 2015-16 and 2016-17.
- Golden State has given up less than 100 points just seven times this season. That number stood at 20 last season and 28 in 2016-17. The Warriors are 49-6 when they don’t yield triple-digit points over the past three seasons. It’s math.
In the end, Golden State remains favored to come away with its third consecutive NBA title. We’re fully expecting the team to take it to that next level come postseason. Squads that have dominated as long as the Warriors tend to struggle through ho-hum stretches of the regular season.
The issue here is that this year’s NBA is different than the past four seasons. Other teams are playing at an elite clip. James Harden and his Houston Rockets are hitting their stride. Giannis Antetokounmpo is a legit MVP candidate for the Milwaukee Bucks.
All the while, the Denver Nuggets, Philadelphia 76ers, Oklahoma City Thunder, Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors are licking their chops.
More so than last year, it’s time for Steve Kerr and the Warriors to hit their stride before the regular season comes to a conclusion.
Should that not happen, dreams of a third consecutive title in the Bay could be squashed with what promises to be a competitive playoff situation out west.
It’s that simple.