Consider Thursday night’s preseason finale against Portland the first leg of the Warriors’ voyage of self-discovery, which will reveal what lies at the collective soul of a team with aspirations – and expectations – to make a deep postseason run.
In the wake of their collapse in Wednesday night’s 91-90 loss at Sacramento, the Warriors have to take it upon themselves to see where they stand on the all-important scale of mental toughness.
[Instant Replay: Warriors fold down the stretch in Sacramento]
That was the takeaway from the loss to the Kings, a game in which the Warriors led by 17 with less than four minutes left in the third quarter, only to be outscored 34-16 over the final 16 minutes.
"Teams are going to come after us, especially teams that aren’t supposed to beat us on paper,’’ center Andrew Bogut said. "They’re going to give us their best shot. If we don’t come to play . . . it’s going to be a tough game.’’
Likes: Stephen Curry finding some of the long-distance rhythm that has been missing, making 5-of-10 3-point shots; Klay Thompson’s early shooting, 16 points on 5-of-11 shooting in the first half; Bogut’s willingness to mix it up with rugged Kings center DeMarcus Cousins, who fouled out in 23 minutes.
Dislikes: The way the Warriors crumbled down the stretch. They got the lead by playing solid defense (they caused 25 Kings turnovers) and hitting shots, only to come apart at winning time. The Dubs shot 16 percent (3 of 19) in the fourth quarter. And in the final seconds, they allowed Sacramento to gather a couple offensive rebounds that led to John Salmons draining a decisive 3-pointer with 7.6 seconds left.
"We had a chance to step on their throats in the third quarter and we should learn a hard lesson,’’ Bogut said.
"We’re a different basketball team than in the past,’’ coach Mark Jackson said. "But the disappointing part is when you need a rebound, when you need a stop, we didn’t come up with it. The good teams, the great teams, the teams that are playing for June . . . you’ve got to come up with that play.’’
What’s coming: Opponents are certain to probe the Warriors. Everyone is aware of their explosiveness, and about the recent poll of league general managers which found the Warriors were considered the "most fun team to watch.’’
So the Warriors must brace for contact. It’s coming. Curry will be tested. Bogut will be tested. David Lee will be tested. Teams will try to score manhood points on the backs of the Warriors.
We’ll see if they’re tough enough to not only withstand the pressure but to push back. We’ll monitor their quest for full respect. Their next opportunity is Thursday at Oracle, when the Blazers come in.