OAKLAND – They missed 60 percent of their free throws, 70 percent of their 3-pointers and committed a dozen or so errors of execution. The Warriors were, on the whole, no better than mediocre Thursday night.
There was, however, one visible sign of progress in a 110-109 overtime loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.
When defeat stared them down, the Warriors fought rather than faded. The pride of the defending champs was palpable for a precious few minutes and they left a little bit of skin and a lot of soul on the floor.
These days, for these Warriors, that's progress.
"I love the way we competed in the second half," coach Steve Kerr said. "And if we play with that type of intensity and competitiveness for the whole game, then we are in business.
"But we have to put it together for 48 minutes."
Kerr got three good minutes. Make that three exceptional minutes.
After a desultory first half left the Warriors trailing, 52-46, Kerr raised his intensity in the locker room at halftime. According to multiple sources, he made no attempt to hide his exasperation.
The Warriors responded in general, outplaying Portland in the second half. But the response reached a concentrated level in the final three minutes of regulation.
Blazers guard CJ McCollum drained a 3-pointer that left the Warriors 10 points down (96-86) with 3:13 to play. What followed was the kind of fury and execution missing all too often this season.
Stephen Curry hit a pullup 3 to cut the deficit to seven with 3:01 to play. Klay Thompson stole a Damian Lillard pass, leading to two free throws by Andre Iguodala, cutting the margin to five with 2:34 to play. When Blazers big man Jusuf Nurkic overpowered Kevin Durant in the paint for a bucket to push the lead back to seven (98-91), Durant countered 13 seconds later with a triple, closing the gap to 98-94 with 1:49 to play.
Nurkic's bucket was Portland's only field goal in the final three minutes. The Blazers made four free throws in the final 1:15, which the Warriors offset with another 3 by Curry, a dunk by Durant and another 3 by Durant, tying it at 102-102.
"We hit some big shots," Curry said. "We were decisive with our passes. We obviously made some 3s. Andre (Iguodala) was huge with the offensive rebound to give (Durant) that last shot. And Klay made a great defensive stop on the last possession of regulation.
"We got stops and got in transition. The crowd got into it. It was a good vibe. We gave ourselves a chance to win in overtime. And just threw it away."
They lost it in OT on a bad pass by Curry that led to a spectacular fadeaway 3 by Lillard with 6.3 seconds to play.
The Warriors can walk away bemoaning 13-of-44 shooting from deep and their 6-of-15 shooting from the line.
"It definitely stings when you leave money out there on the floor," Durant said. "It's unacceptable to miss that many free throws."
This was a strange game, and these are strange times for the Warriors. The team built to dominate has not lived up to its potential. And here they are searching for kernels of hope.
"We're very open and transparent in that locker room," Curry said. "Coach has done a good job of keeping it real with us, in terms of (telling us) we're not playing our best basketball and we've got to figure it out. We're together and the message tonight was just fight your way through it. Whatever is going on, whatever you need to do to get your mind right and get the joy back in what we do, get there.
"The second half was better. Win or lose, it matters. But how we're playing and continuing to build those habits will get us through it."
How odd it is that at 23-13, in a virtual tie for first place in the Western Conference, the Warriors are accepting moral victories?
That's where they are, and where they will be on too many nights until they find a way to leave a bit more skin and soul on the floor for longer stretches of a game.