Considering the Phoenix Suns’ bizarre ability to beat good teams despite being a 16-53 dumpster fire and contender not for the NBA title but for the services of Zion Williamson that will likely go to the winner of the draft lottery, one should not read too much into the Golden State Warriors’ 115-111 loss to Phoenix at home Sunday.
After all, Phoenix has now beaten Golden State, Milwaukee (twice!), Boston, and Denver, four of the NBA’s five best teams, according to Net Rating.
Three of those teams — the Warriors, Bucks, and Celtics — lost to the Suns at home.
THE SUNS WIN IN ORACLE!
Suns 115 | Warriors 111
Devin Booker: 37 Pts, 11 Ast, 8 Reb
Kelly Oubre Jr.: 22 Pts, 5 Reb, 1 Blk
Deandre Ayton: 18 Pts, 9 Reb, 4 Ast pic.twitter.com/Mfa6HNSvP5
— Suns Nation (@SunsNationNBA) March 11, 2019
But NBA games do not happen in a vacuum, and the Warriors have been a steaming hot mess lately, just 4-5 since the All-Star Game, including getting absolutely humiliated at home by the Celtics last week in a 128-95 debacle.
Their high-powered offense also fell flat on its face against the Orlando Magic in late February, scoring just 96 points against a team that’s not exactly the ’94 Knicks defensively.
And while only a complete fool writes off a championship dynasty in the regular season no matter how bad things look — looking at you, national NFL media, after the Patriots dropped two straight in December — things do not look good for the Warriors as of this day in March.
Wait … I’m the national-media idiot who wrote that article writing off the Patriots. Whoops.
Back to the point at hand, the bigger problem might be Draymond Green finally wearing out his welcome in Oakland.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr was caught on camera, and from the looks of it, he may have said “I am so f—ing tired of Draymond’s s—“:
What did Steve Kerr say here? pic.twitter.com/Xq9cwyoQWw
— Eric Rosenthal (@ericsports) March 11, 2019
Green is averaging just seven points per game, and his 3-point shooting has been putrid, dropping all the way to 25 percent. He has not shot better than 30.8 percent from long range since the 2015-16 season.
Green is also posting a career-worst defensive rating, has his fewest defensive win shares since he was a rookie, and has dropped below the “starter’s Mendoza line” of .100 Win Shares per 48 minutes, also for the first time since his rookie year.
If Steve Kerr is tired of Draymond’s (expletive), he’s got the stats to back it up.
Making matters worse, Klay Thompson had the temerity to go after Warriors fans, saying that they didn’t bring enough energy to inspire the team.
Klay Thompson would like to see more energy from the Oracle Arena crowd 😬
— USA TODAY NBA (@usatodaynba) March 11, 2019
It’s one thing to throw your teammates under the bus — LeBron James has made a Hall of Fame career out of it — but fans are a different story, especially with the team about to move into a sterile corporate playground of a new arena, which tends to have all the raucous energy of a funeral.
Thompson is an unrestricted free agent after this season; is this a sign he’s planning to be the first rat off the sinking ship?
Speaking of rats, adding injury to insult, Kevin Durant suffered an injury to his ankle, although the San Jose Mercury-News reports the injury is a minor one unlikely to cost Durant significant time on the court.
And as far as the Warriors’ underrated defense goes, they are 17th in the league in defensive rating as a team this year after finishing no worse than 11th during th four-year run in which they have won three of the last four titles and would have won four in a row had LeBron James not put up one of the greatest three-game stretches in NBA Finals history in 2016.
Part of that is DeMarcus Cousins, who has looked less like Defensive Player of the Year and more like the Shaqtin’ MVP out there defensively.
Consider this clip from the Celtics game where Terry Rozier made Cousins look about as mobile as Lot’s wife after she turned around:
I could post 4 or 5 similar Boogie clips from the first quarter. Terrible defense. Call me crazy but he should play in the g league until he can slide his feet again. #warrjors #celtics #boogie #cousins #dnpcdintheplayoffs pic.twitter.com/6Mb2c1BtSm
— SportPickTeam (@SportPickTeam1) March 6, 2019
The Warriors have control of first place for now, but if the season ended today, they would play Game 1 on the road if they and the Bucks made the NBA Finals.
And speaking of home-court, Denver is just 1.5 games behind the Warriors in the Western Conference standings, with the Rockets charging all the way to within four games after at one point in November sitting in 14th place in the West standings, second up from the bottom.
If the Warriors don’t get things together soon and solve their chemistry problems, they won’t just possibly play a conference finals Game 7 on the road. They might have to do it in the second round.
And while plenty of teams have gotten smug in the regular season and “activated playoff mode” — Shaq and Kobe’s Lakers in the early aughts, the sixth-seeded Rockets when they stormed through the 1995 playoffs on their way to the second of their two titles in the Michael Jordan baseball interregnum — none of them have had a coach openly questioning why he puts up with a three-time All-Star who anchors his defense.
Golden State has a brutal stretch coming up with road games at Houston, Oklahoma City, and red-hot San Antonio (the Spurs have won eight straight at home) over the next week.
Lose two or three of them, and it might just be full panic time.
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