OAKLAND, Calif. -- The last time the Golden State Warriors lost at home was back in January, against the Chicago Bulls. The last time they lost in regulation at Oracle was back in November, against the San Antonio Spurs. This 97-90 home loss in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals to the Memphis Grizzlies just wasn’t part of the plan, certainly not on the day of Stephen Curry’s MVP presentation.
In pregame, as Curry took hold of his trophy, Tony Allen was on the other side of the court, pacing like a madman. He had his own plans. He was ready to dash everyone’s expectations with a dose of chaos.
It took some inspired defense from Allen, combined with an inspirational performance from Mike Conley, who played magnificently despite a fractured face and foggy mask. Conley hit his first four shots and the Grizzlies never looked back. After Memphis went ahead 5-4, they led the rest of the way. Golden State had runs here and there, but they were never sustained. The game was always just out of reach, and the Warriors never got organized enough to tug it back.
"I thought we lost our poise tonight,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr assessed. “That was the biggest issue.
“We were too emotional. We were too quick with our intention to score,” he said. “Instead of just moving the ball and setting good screens, everyone was trying to do everything frantically on their own.”
That overarching assessment would seem to apply to Klay Thompson, who finished with five turnovers to his two assists. Golden State’s All-Star shooting guard was uncustomarily jumbled on Tuesday night -- missing open shots, hesitating when open, lunging into the teeth of the defense. Thompson, who tends to take shooting slumps hard, was unavailable for comment after the game.
The Warriors will need an improved version of their All-Star if they’re to snag a game at the Grindhouse. Or, they’ll at least need an improved version of one of their All-Stars. Curry also had a rough shooting game, going 7-of-19 for 19 points. He missed some shots he usually makes, but also found few open ones against the Grizzlies’ swarming defense. The most memorable example happened after Curry got Allen flying past him with a pump fake. Some how, some way, Allen managed the balance and awareness to keep his hand hovering in front of Curry’s face as Curry launched a miss.
After the game, Curry preached calm, saying, “We're not going to shoot 6-for-26 many times over this series, so we're not going to overreact to one bad shooting night, as long as we get quality shots the next game.”
Draymond Green had a similar message, saying, “Nobody expects us to lose a game at home. Now the whole world has collapsed, the Bay Area’s just been hit by an earthquake. Everything’s going wrong.” He then downshifted into a reassuring tone, saying, “We’ll be just fine.”
That’s probably the right approach for the playoffs finally arriving at Oracle. The Warriors made it look so easy, for so long, that one could be deceived into thinking they could skate to a title sans stretches of doubt. It just isn’t happening that smoothly for a young team experiencing life as the favorite for the first time. Massive expectation doesn’t obviate pressure, it amplifies it.
That’s fine, so long as the Warriors tighten up their process, move the ball, and play calmly through the crucible. Or, as Green framed it: “Everything’s not going to go our way. You learn from adversity and you build off of it. It’s about how you bounce back. It’s not about what happened tonight.”