The first quarter reminded us of how Oracle Arena can be a harrowing place for visitors. Andre Iguodala put the ball behind his back before violently yanking it back across his body, sending Quincy Miller into an embarrassing tumble. Fans stood in a sudden wave, jeering Miller's misfortune. The older-style concrete stadium makes for disorienting acoustics. The crowd noise spills from the rafters, bounces around the walls and descends on opponents and disliked referees with a force that feels almost dangerous. In last year's playoffs, the Warriors were struggling to hear play calls on the floor. The crowd energy, and its subsequent ref-intimidation powers, was worth it, though.
Given their vaunted "Roaracle" advantage, why are the Warriors suffering embarrassing home losses to lesser opponents? Since Feb. 1, they've suffered home losses to Charlotte, Cleveland, New York and now Denver.
The trouble at home has frustrated owner Joe Lacob, who back in February told Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News, "The road’s been fine. But at home we’ve lost a couple games -- to Minnesota and to San Antonio when they played their scrubs, if you remember ... and Denver and Charlotte. Maybe another four games that we just absolutely should’ve won. We didn’t. And I’m not sure why. The team wasn’t ready in those games. I can’t explain it -- why we don’t play so consistently at home as we should. We have a great home-court advantage, great fans, great atmosphere. It’s not clear."
Thursday night's game ended in a one-point loss, sealed by a tough Kenneth Faried post-up fadeaway. It's easy to dismiss that as poor luck for the Dubs, but Denver's energy far outmatched an opponent who could have clinched a playoff berth with a victory.
Andrew Bogut was regularly mauled by Timofey Mozgov, who finished with 23 points and 29 rebounds. In total, the Warriors ceded a staggering 25 offensive rebounds to their bizarrely galvanized opponent.
"There's a lot of reasons this is such a terrible feeling in the locker room," a downcast Stephen Curry said after the game. "We could have taken care of a playoff spot."
When asked about what it means in the big picture, Curry said, "We gotta learn these lessons, man. Simple as that. We can't take off possessions, we can't take off quarters and just expect to turn it on when you need it."
Draymond Green expressed disappointment about Golden State's rebounding effort but felt the loss came from getting too comfortable: "We got up 20, took our foot off the gas pedal, and when you're playing a game against a team like that, who doesn't necessarily have the best shot selection and nothing to lose, if those shots start falling, you're in for a long night."
The loss means the Warriors likely won't get to play an ailing Houston Rockets team in Round 1. To emerge from the first round, they'll probably have to go through one of the West's big-three teams (Clippers, Thunder, Spurs) as a substantial underdog. Losing to bad teams put them in this position, but at least they'll have incentive to conjure necessary energy against the West's elite.
The situation could also be worse, too. A Mozgov foul sent Stephen Curry flying at a cameraman, where he landed awkwardly but safely. After the game, that cameraman apologized to Curry and expressed his relief over Steph's healthy status. The Warriors are in a tough spot, but they still have Curry and a few more chances to redeem themselves.