OAKLAND - Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart stared in Kevin Durant's direction after hitting a 23-foot jumper with 2.6 seconds left in the first half of Tuesday's 128-95 win over the Warriors.
Smart's shot capped off a 14-4 Celtic run to close the half with a 73-48 lead, but the sentiment behind Smart's stare provided a familiar sight for Golden State in recent weeks.
Since the All-Star break, the Warriors are 3-5, ranking near the bottom of the league in defense over that span. Last season, the team limped into their championship run, finishing the regular season 7-14. Now, following the worst loss of the Steve Kerr era, Golden State will try not replicate last season's effort during this year's stretch run.
So far, the Warriors have done little to quiet the comparisons to that performance. Over their last six games, Golden State has given up 119.3 points per game, while posting a 114.5 defensive rating.
Coinciding with the slide in the team's defensive performance has been their lack of depth. The team is averaging just 29.0 points off the bench, the second-worst output in the league. Last year's standout Quinn Cook, offseason acquisition Jonas Jerebko and training camp invite Alfonzo McKinnie have struggled to provide a consistent scoring punch.
Last season, Golden State battled injuries to Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson during the last 24 games of the season, failing to find cohesion down the stretch. Now, with a healthier group, Golden State thinks this regular season won't be more of the same.
"This year is different," said Stephen Curry, who finished with 23 points Tuesday night. "Last year we had some injuries and a depleted roster. This year we have new pieces, I'd say we have some of the same patterns that we need to correct and prove ourselves that we can do it."
For the moment, the Warriors look stuck in mud, evidenced by Tuesday's performance.
The Celtics, who came into the matchup losers of five of their last six, shot 51.0 percent from the field and 41 percent from the 3-point range. Gordon Hayward, who came into Tuesday averaging just five points over his last five games, scored 30 points on 12-of-16 from the field in 28 minutes.
"No sense of urgency," Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins said. "Another sluggish start. Bad energy. That was on us tonight. You can't even really get into the x's and o's or make excuses about making shots, or whatever the case may be. It started off with our energy from the beginning and regardless, came out ready to play and we didn't. Simple as that."
Fortunately for the Warriors, it isn't last year. Golden State is still 1.5 games up on the Denver Nuggets after Tuesday's loss. The teams will play at Oracle Arena on Friday night, for the top seed in the Western Conference, even though the Warriors have lost five of their last eight games.
"Whoever they play next, I wouldn't want to be them because they're probably going to play very hard," Celtics guard Jaylen Brown said.
For the Warriors' sake, the team hopes Brown's words ring true for the rest of the season.