OAKLAND, Calif. -- It was an inauspicious start, about as bad a beginning as a team could have. Fans thronged to Oracle Arena in anticipation of a party, a carnival to ring in a new, glorious era, or at the very least make them forget the last time a meaningful game happened in these haunts. Instead, the Golden State Warriors got demolished by an older, staid operation, losing to the San Antonio Spurs 129-100 on Tuesday night.
Some of the initial issues were understandable, especially on offense. It's difficult to find a rhythm when so many can credibly claim the baton. Golden State opened like an operation in need of air traffic controllers, quite a few times throwing passes to invisible teammates. So it wasn't a shock when the Warriors began with nine first-half turnovers. The defense, on the other hand, was glaringly bad.
"We do have a lot of work to do, there's no denying that," Stephen Curry said. "But I think we're still in a pretty good spot."
The Warriors were witnesses to a career-high 35 points from Kawhi Leonard and generally got blasted in transition defense. Center Zaza Pachulia has his good qualities but isn't nearly the rim protector Andrew Bogut was.
Throughout the evening, San Antonio looked comfortable knifing into the paint and bullied Pachulia into three putback buckets.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr shouldered some blame.
"I didn't have them ready to play, obviously," he said. "We came out of the blocks, we missed some easy shots, but I never worry about missed shots, it's more about loose balls and a second or third effort."
Draymond Green cited offensive rebounding issues.
"I mean, we gave up a lot of offensive rebounds," he said. "So when we we'd be making a run, we get a stop, and then they get the offensive rebound. And it's like, if you don't close out the possession, the first stop is pointless. And it also stopped our fast break, which is the way we want to play."
Green also noted Jonathon Simmons' 20-point explosion.
"Then we let Simmons come in and destroy us in the first half," he said. "And he continued it in the second half. I mean, no disrespect to him, but you can't let guys like that come off the bench and get 20. It's hard to win like that."
As for the All-Stars, all but Kevin Durant (27 points) were off their games. Layups were missed, open 3-pointers went begging. For stretches, Golden State's offense evoked the surreal sequence wherein they couldn't manage to score at the end of the NBA Finals. Curry had 26 points on 18 shots, but wasn't quite his MVP-level self. Klay Thompson, who feasted in preseason, suddenly came back to earth with an 11-point, 13-shot outing. Draymond Green provided a nice stat line of 18 points, 12 rebounds and 6 assists but wasn't the all-world defender we're accustomed to seeing.
"Kevin is so good that he's going to look good in any setting, with any group of four around him," Kerr said. "It wasn't about Kevin at all. It wasn't about one particular player, it was about the group."
There's an old axiom by John Hollinger, one of the founding fathers of NBA analytics: "Good teams don't get blown out at home." It had better not apply here, considering the circumstances, and it probably won't. But it's still shocking to see a team this talented look so overwhelmed on its home floor.
Then again, great players can falter in new, scrutinized circumstances. The issue with "super teams" is that they employ actual, real-life humans. There are no superheroes on super teams, even if the best that Curry and Durant can conjure defies human limitations. There are kinks to work out in Oakland, roles to adjust. The Warriors have some work to do now, after so many assumed that dominance was an easy choice.