OAKLAND, Calif. — Golden State Warriors superstar Kevin Durant acknowledged one of the hard truths about his team’s up-and-down season in the wake of a surprising 129-121 Game 5 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night — the group doesn’t show a consistent killer instinct when it needs one, and the lack of intensity continues to cost them games.
“When we get a nice lead, we just tend to relax a little bit,” Durant said. “I said it before, teams are looking for something just to get them back into the game, you know what I’m saying? If we foul a 3-point shooter or turn the rock over or we shoot a few bad shots in a row, teams get going. They’ll build some confidence. Because they’re already playing loose, with nothing to lose, those shots, they don’t have no pressure from the start to the finish, especially as an 8 seed. So they’re coming out with some confidence already. And we kind of kept the door open with our intensity to start the game.”
The Warriors’ lack of intensity was a major talking point for players as they tried to describe exactly what went wrong in a game they thought would close out the series. Golden State still has a 3-2 series lead, but the team has to go back to Los Angeles now for Game 6 at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
“It’s very disappointing,” Warriors forward Draymond Green said of not being able to close down the series. “You know that falls on me. If I bring the intensity from the start everybody usually falls in line on that side of the ball so that’s my fault. I got to be better.”
The reality for the Warriors is that the same habits they built throughout the regular season were the same ones that doomed them on Wednesday night. As was the case throughout their first 82 games of the year, especially in many of their 11 regular-season losses at Oracle Arena, some nights the defensive intensity and the focus just wasn’t there. In Game 5, those same two habits came to the forefront again.
After noting that his team’s defensive performance was “not good,” Kerr sat at the podium trying to explain how the Warriors’ issues won’t go away.
“It’s been a year where things haven’t gone exactly smoothly all the time,” Kerr said. “So it’s — I’m not surprised by anything. But I expected to come out and play better and to win the game. It’s the NBA playoffs. This is a seven-game series, and you gotta play. You gotta defend with some urgency. And we gave up 129 points on our home floor, and they shot 54 percent.
“We weren’t right from the very beginning … everything that we did in L.A., we did not do tonight. We sort of seemed to take it for granted that we were gonna be OK. But I said it before the game: This Clipper team has been scrapping and clawing all year, and you knew they weren’t gonna go down without a fight.”
The Warriors repeatedly brushed off the notion that they were looking ahead to a potential Western Conference semifinals showdown with the Houston Rockets after the Rockets finished off the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night in five games, but now that they find themselves headed for Game 6, they are confident they can rise to the occasion on Friday night.
“This game sucked,” Warriors swingman Klay Thompson said. “We lost. Let’s go win Friday. Let’s win big. Let’s freakin’ win by 30, like we’re capable of. But it’s basketball, so I’m excited for Friday.”