LOS ANGELES -- Five seconds into the Warriors' 120-94 loss Wednesday night, Lakers forward LeBron James took one dribble and threw a crosscourt alley-oop pass to JaVale McGee, leading to Los Angeles' easiest bucket of the evening.
The play marked a familiar scenario for Golden State. In the last month, a once-dominant defense has descended to the league's worst unit. By the end of Wednesday evening, it added yet another lackluster performance to its résumé.
"We never had any traction in that game," Warriors coach Steve Kerr admitted. "We had some spells where we made some good things happen offensively and maybe got a stop or two but every time it felt like we were right there we just couldn't get a stop."
Golden State's defensive lapses started early Wednesday evening at Staples Center. Through the first 12 minutes, Los Angeles shot 69 percent, including five 3-pointers. James scored 19 of his team-high 23 points in the first half, adding six rebounds as the Lakers scored 64 points in the paint.
Defensive lapses were all too common Wednesday evening. In the third quarter, James received an inbounds pass from guard Alex Caruso, drove baseline as Caruso screened both D'Angelo Russell and Glenn Robinson, leading to an easy pass to Dwight Howard for a wide-open dunk.
Throughout his tenure, Kerr's defensive philosophy required his team to get three straight stops at least once during a game. For the last five years, the strategy worked. The Warriors finished in the top 10 in defensive rating in four of the five seasons. Now, with Andre Iguodala and Kevin Durant gone, and both Klay Thompson and Kevon Looney out of the lineup, the Warriors are giving up more than 120 points per game.
The defensive effort has gotten so bad that Kerr used Wednesday's shootaround -- usually reserved for light pregame preparation -- as an intense practice that mirrored his training camps of the past.
During the session, he put his team through a gauntlet of defensive drills in hopes they would spark an improvement. Adding to the conundrum is the face the Warriors aren't using one defensive method that made them one of the league's most vaunted defensive units.
"Most guys in general struggle with communication," Warriors forward Draymond Green said. "It's kind of amplified when you're dealing with younger guys. You always wonder is the communication because you're not comfortable? Because you don't know. But half the battle is getting them to say something.
"If you can get people to say something," he added. "If it's the wrong thing, your teammates can react to the wrong thing and if you overwork the wrong thing it becomes right. The battle is to get everyone to communicate and that's an area we have to grow in."
The Warriors' defensive troubles come as the team's health is in peril. Of the nine active players in the loss to the Lakers, just one was on the team's roster last season.
As Green walked out of Staples Center, the forward perfectly summed up the team's current state.
"I think we've improved but we've got a long ways to go," Green said. "A long ways to go."