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10:03AM

Kerr on Warriors' effort in huge loss: ‘I can’t explain it’

By Art Spander

OAKLAND, Calif. — Maybe this is the year the Dubs become the flubs. Maybe they’ve lost a little something — for sure Wednesday night, they lost something in a big way, a game.

Or maybe what happens in November and December doesn’t matter all that much, even when you get overwhelmed.

Tim Legler, the onetime player and now an NBA analyst for ESPN, pointed out that for the Warriors, champions three of the past four years, what counts is how they play in April and May, the playoffs. And June, certainly.

And yet the way the Toronto Raptors, with the best record in the league, crushed the Warriors 113-93 has to mean something, to the Raptors and the rest of the NBA — and perhaps the Warriors. Ouch!

“I can’t explain it,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said, alluding to what he perceived was a lack of effort.

A couple of weeks ago on the other side of the border, Toronto edged the Warriors in overtime, and one could argue that, hey, you get to OT on the other team’s home court, just wait ‘til they meet in Oakland. OK, we waited. Wow!

The Warriors couldn’t score — they were 6 of 26 on three-point attempts. The Warriors couldn’t stop the other team from scoring. The Raptors shot 48 percent overall and were 9 of 28 on threes.

This was the Dubs' single worst game since Kevin Durant signed up in the summer of ’16. And a good thing he was there. Kevin was the only one of the Dubs able to do anything offensively, going 13 of 22 for 30 points.

Steph Curry? He was 3 of 12, 10 points; Klay Thompson, 7 of 17, 14 points.

“Came out with right intentions,” said Curry. And the right history. The Warriors had won 13 straight over Toronto at the Oracle. But outside of a brief 7-4 lead, they didn’t have a chance.

“Didn’t make shots early in the game,” said Steph, “and I think it affected our energy a little bit. We tried to talk our way through it, but they played well. They played aggressive. They got into us early. Most of our open shots didn’t go down. We didn’t have any rhythm.”

Or much else.

“We really didn’t bring the level of intensity that we needed until the start of the third quarter,” said Kerr. “That was the first sign of life with our defense, but at that point we were swimming upstream.”

Lifeguard, help.

The Raptors didn’t even have their best player, Kawhi Leonard, who was ill, and someone wondered if the Dubs let their guard down, albeit Leonard is a forward.

“No, I don’t think that was the case,” said Kerr. “I just think we didn’t quite have it. I was just one of those nights you would hope you would be more engaged and more energetic playing against this team.

“We are in a place where we are defending a title and defending sort of a mantle that we have had for several years. It’s a different vibe. It’s a different feeling when you are on the climb like Toronto is, like Milwaukee is.”

Indeed, the Milwaukee Bucks also were able to destroy the Dubs, 134-111, also at Oracle, at the beginning of November. Draymond Green was missing from that one. He was present and accounted for Wednesday.

“They played better,” said Green, who had only two points but also seven assists against Toronto. “They made shots. We were taking the ball out of the net every time. It’s kind of hard to get pace that way. Their defense was really good. A big part of their defense was the offense.

“They just broke our defense down. We just got to be a little better making an adjustment. That’s not on the coaching. That’s on us as players.”

The assumption is that, by defeating the Warriors in the only two games they’ll play during the regular schedule, the Raptors would have the advantage if they meet in the NBA finals.

“I would think we had the edge at this point,” countered Kerr, “now that they kicked our butts twice.”

Maybe when swimming upstream, one loses a sense of perspective.

10:05AM

Warriors still perfect after an imperfect game

By Art Spander

OAKLAND — They’re going to lose one of these nights. Maybe Thursday on the road against the Clippers. Maybe Friday at home against the Chicago Bulls. Nobody goes through an NBA schedule, 82 games, unbeaten.

But so far, the Warriors, with a lot of talent and a little luck, are without a loss through 12 games.

That ties the modern-era record for the fourth-best start in recent history — no, we’re not counting the 1948-49 Washington Capitals. The ’93-94 Houston Rockets began 15-0 (as did the Caps), the ’57-58 Celtics and ’02-03 Dallas Mavericks went 14-0, while the ’82-83 Seattle SuperSonics, now the OKC Thunder, won their first 12, as have the ’15-16 Warriors.

The W’s remained perfect with an imperfect 115-110 victory over the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday night, and as the very perceptive Luke Walton, the anointed interim coach, so astutely pointed out after it was time to exhale, sure, it was sloppier than usual. Who cared?

We’re spoiled. We’re so used to watching the Warriors get control in the second quarter or maybe the third — all right, the OT win over the Brooklyn was the exception — that when something happens like that against the Raptors we, media and fans, are not quite sure how to act. Not that we outliers are alone.

“We’re all spoiled,” Walton agreed in wonderful candor. “Not just you (meaning the demonic critics from the fourth estate). We keep winning. Our guys are so good. That’s our style. Our guys have a special gift to make big plays, and it’s not just one or two of them.

“We weren’t happy with the way the game was turning in the second half, but we were thrilled the way we stepped up to finish it to get another win.”

Walton, of course, has done nothing but win since he was designated as the temporary replacement for Steve Kerr, who since directing the Warriors to a championship last season has, because of back surgery and complications, been unable to coach a game.

But if the administration changed, the performance is mostly unchanged.

Against Toronto, Stephen Curry had 37 points in 39 minutes, and nine assists. Klay Thompson had 19 points (but only one in the second half). The W’s shot a competent 53 percent.

However, Toronto, which chooses to play what is known as deliberate basketball and thus draws fouls, took 39 free throws and made 30, while the W’s were a mere 18 of 27 from the line. The W’s, who prefer running, which they are able to do after the opponent misses a shot, were restricted to walking. Yes, they had an 18-point lead a few seconds before halftime, but they also were tied with under six minutes left. Unnerving.

“We’d love to keep pushing up the ball,” said Walton. “We started Steph in the fourth quarter and thought we could build up our lead. But you’re going to have sloppy games like this.”

The Warriors had Andrew Bogut at center for the first time since he incurred a concussion, but they didn’t have Shaun Livingston as sub at guard — he has hip problems — and that’s why Curry had to play so long. But great teams, and we’ll include the Warriors in that category after winning a title and their first 12 games the following season, manage to succeed.

“We didn’t feel like we played great tonight,” said Bogut, the designated interviewee. “We played good in spurts. It’s a positive sign for us.”

Not that the other 11 games have been very negative.

But Curry said the Warriors expect more of themselves, and even though they finished in the right place the trip was strenuous.

“They’re good,” he said of the Raptors. “There’s a lot of talent in this league. Tough games are good to experience. But we hold ourselves to a certain standard. We didn’t put any pressure on them defensively, and when we were sloppy on a couple of pressures, they came to life.”

Asked what went wrong — a bit strong when you’re undefeated — Walton shrugged and reminded, “The first half we were phenomenal. We had 21 assists at the half with only seven turnovers.

“We are putting together nice halves and finishing games nice, but we have gotten away from the overall great game of basketball.”