Since starting the season with eight wins in the first 11 games, the Warriors have lost seven of their last 11. What happened? The 115-111 loss to Charlotte on Monday night offers a few explanations.
Interpreted, they indicate these Warriors (12-10) are not ready to join the league's elite.
There was, once again, a slow start. Against a bad team starting its third-string small forward, the Warriors were down nine (15-6) less than six minutes after tipoff, forcing coach Mark Jackson to use a timeout. They rallied briefly, closing to within three (24-21) before the Bobcats went on a 12-3 run to take control in the second quarter.
They came back, yes, but sluggish beginnings are becoming a pattern, suggesting the team still is unclear on the concept of ruthlessness, which is essential to winning.
We showed a lot of fight," Jackson said. "But that's type of energy and effort you have to give before you get down.
"We don't have to prove we can fight back into ballgames. But we have to prove we can take over ballgames early and put together 48 minutes of our brand (of basketball)."
There were, once again, hurtful turnovers. The Warriors committed 15 of them – including three in row after coming back to tie the game early in the fourth quarter – off which Charlotte scored 21 points.
This, too, has become a habit. On nights when they don't light it up from 3-point range, turnovers can be the difference between winning and losing.
Then there are periods during which the Warriors exhibit a puzzling defensive apathy. They opened the season gaining a reputation for finally adding this component, and now it often disappears.
The Charlotte Bobcats, who entered the game as the lowest-scoring team in the NBA, averaging 89.6 points per came, tallied 64 points in the second half. A truly good team might have gone for 80.
"They got a rhythm offensively," Jackson said. "We were a step slow. Defensively, when we needed stops, we didn't come up with them. So it's disappointing. We're a defensive team. If we give up 115 points to anybody, it's not acceptable."
Stephen Curry started slow, and then warmed up to deliver a nuclear second half in which he scored 32 of his 43 points. He also committed some key turnovers and was lit up by Charlotte's Kemba Walker, who finished with 31.
"It's early in the season," Curry said, "but this game stings a bit more than most."
As well it should, for the Bobcats were without Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or his backup Jeff Taylor. Low-post lion Al Jefferson was held to 11 points. The Warriors honestly were victimized by Gerald Henderson, Josh McRoberts, Ben Gordon, Ramon Sessions and, mostly, Walker.
And don't even try blaming the schedule, which has resulted in 14 of the first 22 games being played on the road. It has been tough, yes, but the best teams find ways to win games they should win.
"Great teams are great on the road and at home," Klay Thompson conceded. "Especially when you know you're better than the other team."
The Warriors are better than the Bobcats. They weren't on Monday because of the aforementioned factors. If those factors aren't eradicated, or at least neutralized, they are destined to have more such nights.
THE GOOD: Curry's second-half offense, David Lee's rebounding (he finished with 16) and Andrew Bogut's defense on Jefferson.
THE BAD: Turnovers, the low-energy start and Curry's defense, particularly on Walker at crunch time.
THE TAKE: The Warriors are a team still in search of its level. They miss Andre Iguodala, on offense and defense, more than they could have imagined. Yes, it's tough to play dogged defense when the roster is thin and the bench is short and you're spending too much time on the road. But the Dubs too often fail to show their best effort, and that doesn't fly when a team is striving to be elite.