These Aren't the Warriors of Old, and They're Searching for Answers

OAKLAND – Their faces were vacant, as if they were in shock. Maybe they were.

But they shouldn't be.

The Warriors on Thursday night gave away the kind of game they once used grabbed by the throat, particularly at home, but far too often this season have not.

So there they were, one after another, milling about the locker room before trudging into the chilly night, wearing this loss like a veil. It was one of 82, but it felt like much more.

That's because the Warriors measure themselves, first and foremost, against their lofty standard but second and without question against the Houston Rockets, who wiped out a 17-point deficit to snatch a 135-134 overtime victory before a disappointed – and barely believing – sellout crowd at Oracle Arena.

The Warriors had so few answers that it was obvious they have many more questions – and nearly all of them are about themselves.

"When you have a lead like that, you don't lose at home," Stephen Curry said.

But they did.

And they have. This was their third consecutive loss at home, and all three were games the Warriors used to win. They lost to the Lakers on Christmas Day, despite LeBron James leaving in the third quarter, in a game they trailed by as much as 31 points. They lost to the Trail Blazers two days later, also in OT, in a game they led by eight before giving it back so quickly they needed a fourth-quarter rally to force OT.

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"Los Angeles, we laid an egg from the jump, never really created any momentum," Curry said. "Portland game, we started off terribly, found some life in the second half and got beat on a tough shot in overtime. Tonight, having a 20-point lead, and they come back.

"All of them . . . it's a terrible feeling, losing at home. But our fight is there. We've just got to work on the details in terms of putting 48 minutes together. We haven't gotten there yet."

For this one, the Warriors can blame their sloppy first half, when they committed 12 turnovers, giving Houston 15 points.

They can blame their languid defense in the third quarter, when Houston caught a rhythm and scored 39 points on 54.5-percent shooting – 61.5 percent from deep.

"I don't think we played with that killer instinct in that second half," Klay Thompson said. "We relaxed when we were up 17 points."

Or the Warriors can blame their lousy offense in that same quarter and much of the fourth, when there was such stagnation some of the players may as well have been mannequins. They shot 39.6 percent in the third and fourth quarters.

"They came out swinging," coach Steve Kerr said of the Rockets in the third quarter. "They scored, I think, 18 points (actually 19) in the first four minutes. Our defense was really poor. Our offensive execution was really lacking. Quick shots.

"I don't know if Kevin Durant touched the ball there in the third quarter for five or six minutes. That can't happen. We have to do a better job of getting him the ball."

Durant did go long stretches without the ball, and not for the first time or the second time, or even the third. It's an intermittent problem that has yet to be resolved.

What's evident is that the Warriors are not the Warriors of old. It's painful to the fan base. It's maddening to them. It's wonderful for their opponents.

"It's a different year than it has been in the past," Thompson conceded.

The Warriors, once described as the team that broke the NBA, are 7-11 against winning teams. They are 0-4 in OT. They are 0-2 against Houston.

They 25-14, still a good record, but this is a team that over the past four seasons averaged 15.7 losses per 82-game season.

They're good, but not nearly as good as they have been. Which begs the question: What must they do to close out games?

"I don't know," Durant said. "We just have to be better."

They have 43 games remaining in the regular season, plenty of time to determine if they have what it takes to actually be better.

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