- The Golden State Warriors blew a 31-point lead in 19 minutes to the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday – the biggest collapse in NBA playoff history.
- To some, the game was the latest sign that this Warriors is team is different and truly vulnerable in the playoffs, despite remaining heavy favorites to win the championship.
- The concern going forward will be how the Warriors handle teams who fight as hard as the Clippers, but are more talented.
The Golden State Warriors suffered the worst collapse in NBA playoff history to the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday.
Leading by 31 points with 7:30 left in the third quarter of Game 2, the Warriors unraveled, allowing the Clippers to outscore them 72-40 over the remaining 19-plus minutes.
As The Athletic’s Tim Kawakami wrote, the Warriors played too lose, then too tense, as the Clippers fought their way back into the game.
It was a combination of problems. Stephen Curry was in foul trouble and lost his rhythm while on the bench. Dogged defender Patrick Beverley put the clamps on Kevin Durant. The Warriors’ defense came apart, as the Clippers’ off-the-bench tag-team of Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell pick-and-rolled them to death.
As a result, the Warriors are now tied 1-1 in a first-round series for the first time in the Steve Kerr era. To some, it’s a sign that this Warriors team is different, exhausted from another Finals chase, and more vulnerable than some think.
Not helping matters is they may be without starting center DeMarcus Cousins, who went down with a leg injury in the first quarter. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Warriors are fearful that it will be a season-ending injury.
Cousins hasn’t fit perfectly into the Warriors’ system, but he was supposed to be another piece that made them insurmountable – a fifth All-Star with the ability to post up smaller defenders when opponents go small. The team’s rotations and depth will change as a result.
It’s possible Cousins’ injury affected the team’s mindset, but the injury occurred well before the Warriors built up a 31-point lead, only to blow it. To some who have covered the team all year long, Monday’s collapse proved that the Warriors’ season-long issues have carried into the postseason.
The Athletic’s Marcus Thompson wrote: “The Warriors were supposed to be done with these games. Those inexcusable letdowns and pathetic performances unbecoming of one of the greatest teams ever was supposed to be a byproduct of the regular season. But it’s the playoffs, so maybe it is a character flaw of this team, the wart of a millennial dynasty.”
Kawakami wrote: “The Warriors are not as driven. They’re not as young. They’re not as joyful. They’re not as reliable. They’re not as good defensively. That’s what all those embarrassing home blowout losses were telling us.”
“I was very concerned coming into this game,” Kerr told reporters after Game 2. “And in some ways, we had this coming. And we’ll see if we can actually respond to it and do something good with it.”
He later said he was sure the Warriors will respond to the loss well, saying they needed something to wake them up.
The Warriors have spoken openly about their collective exhaustion of trying to get back to the Finals to become the rare team to pull off a “threepeat.” There are real challenges to being dominant so long: shorter offseasons, lack of meaningful tests before April, being on the receiving end of every team’s best effort.
But the Warriors have had ancillary issues, too. Kevin Durant’s pending free agency has been a major undercurrent all season, resulting in an ugly blow-up between him and Draymond Green in November.
Even with the argument seemingly settled, questions about the future of the team and the debate between joy and anger have persisted.
Few think the Clippers can truly pull off an upset – the talent gap between the two teams is too great. But at the least, they’ve assured they’ll return to Oracle Arena for a Game 5, cutting short the amount of time the Warriors would get to rest between series.
The bigger question is how the Warriors will respond in future rounds, against teams who play hard like the Clippers but boast better overall talent.
According to 538’s Chris Herring, the Warriors are still overall favorites to win the title, but the collapse and Cousins’ injury knocked their odds down.
NBA history has shown that the best dynasties can come to an end unexpectedly. It wouldn’t surprise anybody if the Warriors stormed to the Finals and won a third straight championship, but evidence is building that the opposite could happen, too.
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