OAKLAND – All it takes now is one game. Just one. One game in which the Warriors look bad in defeat is enough the restart restlessness within the fan base.
The Warriors spit up such a game on Saturday. They revisited some of their worst sins of the past and were burned by them in a 99-90 loss to the white-hot Spurs.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Warriors fall to shorthanded Spurs]
Remember the sluggish starts? The Warriors missed eight of their first 11 shots, allowing the Spurs to race out to a 22-7 lead less than seven minutes after tipoff. The Warriors seemed puzzled. Or maybe befuddled. They clearly were not ready to play winning basketball.
Remember the defensive lulls? The Spurs made six of their first seven shots before the Warriors slowly recovered and played effective defense for most of the game.
And, of course, there were turnovers, lots of turnovers. The Warriors committed five in the first five minutes, seven in the first quarter and 18 for the game. San Antonio feasted for 27 points off those miscues.
The result was a sellout crowd spilling out of Oracle Arena and into the parking lot, an extra-long postgame meeting among the coaches and plenty of long faces in the locker room
This loss, like practically every loss, also reignited frustrations among the fan base, particularly the segment with a proclivity to dive into the Is-Mark-Jackson-the-right-coach debate.
For the moment, at least, I'd say he is.
When Jackson finally entered the room for his postgame news conference, a good 15 minutes later than usual – and at least a half hour after the game – he looked tired. His voice was thinner, and raspier, than usual. He said he was occupied with his staff. He was in no mood to offer details.
“Just talking basketball, that's all,” was his terse response.
The Warriors (44-27) are now 0-3 this season against the Spurs, and neither Tim Duncan nor Manu Ginobili set foot on the floor in the last two losses. Tony Parker did not play last time, either, but he scored 20 points in 28 minutes Saturday night.
“We've won big games without some of our main guys out and they kind of have that same expectation,” Stephen Curry said. “We just didn't have enough early to get a quick lead and they made us pay.”
The Spurs were outrebounded and outshot. They won by punishing the Warriors for their turnovers and by not buckling when the Dubs pulled within two (76-74) in the fourth quarter.
Jackson and his coaches could spend hours seeking answers and still not find any. The Spurs have won 13 straight. They have the league's best record, its best coach and its deepest roster.
No team can start slowly, commit 18 turnovers and shoot poorly (40.3 percent) and beat San Antonio (53-16), certainly not as well as the Spurs are playing.
“You've got to be better to beat those guys,” said Jermaine O'Neal, one of the few Warriors still in the locker room when Jackson concluded his postgame remarks. “We've got to understand what hurt us early in the game, what hurt us late in the game. We have every opportunity to gain the lead and put some difference between us and them and just didn't take full advantage of it tonight.”
That was enough to at least slightly depress the Warriors, who had been playing well since the All-Star break, winning 10 of their first 12 since then and now 13 of 18 overall.
They get a five-day break before returning to action. They could use it – the players and the coaches and, yes, even the fans.
THE GOOD: Not much here, other than Andrew Bogut's 17 rebounds and four blocks.
THE BAD: The turnovers – David Lee and Curry each had five – were the undoing. They are tough to overcome against any team but devastating against the Spurs.
The slow starts reflect poorly on the coaching staff and on team leadership. Every time it happens, it opens the door to question Jackson's preparation and Curry's ability to galvanize his teammates.
Insofar as the Spurs played Friday night and the Warriors did not, it stood to reason the Dubs would be fresher down the stretch. San Antonio outscored the Warriors 23-16 over the final 10 minutes.
THE TAKE: This was a game by which the Warriors could measure themselves and where they are in their progression toward becoming a perennial playoff team. They failed the test. That they failed in much the same way they once did is what leads to the hysteria within a fan base unaccustomed to prosperity but impatient about getting it. Though this team is better than it was last season but not as good as many fans want it to be right now, this is a perfect way to begin a five-day break. It gives everybody plenty of time digest and think.