OAKLAND – The Warriors put up one of their worst efforts of the season Tuesday night, with coach Steve Kerr coming away saying "it was embarrassing," and Kevin Durant expressing confusion about the team's recipe for success.
Informed that Kerr cited a lack of "anger" as a factor in the Warriors being blown off the floor, 128-95, by the Celtics, Durant paused and conveyed puzzlement.
"I thought we, um, move off of joy," Durant said. "Now anger?"
Kerr had been asked about the defensive challenges being confronted by DeMarcus Cousins – in this game and in general – and the coach indicated, certainly in this game, the issues run deeper than one individual.
"We were not flying around. We were not giving the sort of effort it takes to win NBA game," Kerr said. "The other stuff, I've got to do a better job in making sure we are in the right defensive schemes and get the right combinations on the floor. It's a group effort and I'm the coach, so I've got to make sure I'm doing my job.
"It starts with a passion, an anger, an intensity, and it wasn't there tonight."
While the Celtics seemed to be on a mission from the opening tip, the Warriors seemed to be in chill mode, with their defense mostly consisting of lapses in focus, late rotations and perfunctory energy.
Kerr's point, amplified by Stephen Curry, was that the Celtics were more determined than the Warriors. There is no question they were light on intensity, again, and anger might have provided some fuel.
"I disagree with that one," Durant said, referring to the need for anger. "We've just got to ... all around, top to bottom, coaches and players, we've just got to be better."
But Durant didn't stop there.
He was reminded of a flip comment he made when he was introduced, saying the reason he signed with the Warriors was because of the presence of assistant coach Ron Adams (their relationship dates back to Adams' two-year stint on the Oklahoma City Thunder staff). Durant was asked how he thought Adams, as a defensive specialist, might be coping with the lapses plaguing the team.
"It's about how we're all dealing with it," Durant shot back. "The whole team, the whole organization. We're family, right? That's how we operate.
"I don't think anybody in that locker room is anything but upset with the game we played. It's not just Ron Adams."
So, yes, there was more raw emotion after the game than there was for much of the first half, when the Warriors fell behind 73-48, lit up by Boston's 63-percent shooting from the field. The Warriors are capable of coming back against most teams, but the Celtics were too far in the distance to be caught.
The Warriors got no closer than 17 (93-76) in the second half. The Celtics answered that with a 12-0 run to take a 105-76 lead into the fourth quarter.
The defending champions, playing on their home court for the first time in 10 days, were pantsed and spanked in front their fans, most of whom couldn't bear to watch a final 12 minutes played only to meet regulations.
This was their fourth loss in six games, with many of them following the same script. Fall behind early, rally to come back and end up losing.
"We just have to want it, to want to figure it out," Curry said.
That much is true. But this seems to run deeper than that. There is a vibe around this team that didn't exist last season, and wasn't very detectable early this season.
The joy that is one of Kerr's four tenets – along with mindfulness, compassion and competitiveness – is largely missing, other than when Curry is dancing in victory or the guys on the bench indulge in a celebratory moment. Disengagement levels have never been this high under Kerr.
"Come back to tomorrow," he said. "Watch film. And practice and see where we go from there. We usually bounce back pretty well. So we'll see what happens."
Sounds so simple. Clearly, though, it is not.