OKLAHOMA CITY – Minutes after coach Steve Kerr issued an accurate and democratic assessment sparing practically no one among the Warriors, Stephen Curry came out saying he’s putting it on his shoulders.
Draymond Green responded by pointing an accusatory finger squarely at himself, as the Warriors forward should have.
Klay Thompson wasted neither time nor words.
“This sucks right now,” he said.
The Warriors went slinking out of Chesapeake Energy Arena late Tuesday night, after second consecutive public spanking, down 3-1 in a best-of-seven series, with little more than bruises and the reflexive belief that this will, somehow, get better.
They are, after all, NBA champions, 73 wins strong in the regular season, and much of what they have accomplished was done on faith.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Warriors lose Game 4 in OKC, fall into 3-1 hole]
They looked nothing like champs, however, during and after a 118-94 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals before a sadistically delighted sellout crowd.
“When you get deep in the playoffs, everybody’s good,” Kerr said. “This team is outplaying us right now, and we’ve got to come up with some answers. And it’s as simple as that.”
Kerr and his staff and his roster sought answers after a 133-105 loss in Game 3 on Sunday. They talked about their shortcomings, the areas in which they had to improve, and vowed to be better.
They were, incrementally so, shaving 4 points off the margin of defeat in Game 4. Not nearly enough to spare them from losing back-to-back games for the first time this season.
“It was better than last game,” Curry said, “but obviously not enough.”
The Warriors fell behind by 20 in the first half, cutting it to six in the third quarter before the Thunder reeled off a 20-6 run in the middle of the fourth to run away with the victory.
“I’ll be better and understand the moment in those situations where the momentum can swing either way,” Curry said. “The last (two) games, it’s gotten away from us. A lot of that falls on my shoulders and playing better.”
The Warriors generally defended well enough, holding OKC to 43.3-percent shooting, but were outrebounded 56-40, managing only 15 assists while committing 21 turnovers. They led for all of 86 seconds, confined to the first four minutes.
“This is a long, athletic team and the passes we usually make, you can’t really make,” Green said. “You’ve got to make it a different way, and I don’t think we’ve adjusted to that well.”
What adjustments can be made? OKC’s small lineup is considerably taller than that of the Warriors while sacrificing no quickness. Unless the Warriors grow or the Thunder shrinks, this is going to be a difficult road throughout.
“They’re length is impressive at every position,” Kerr said. “Some of the open shots that we’re used to getting, they’re not quite as open.”
Kevin Durant’s shot was off, as he missed 16 of his 24 attempts, but Russell Westbrook and the rest of the Thunder provided more than ample support. Westbrook submitted a triple-double – 36 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists – and added five steals and two blocked shots.
Serge Ibaka and Andre Roberson each put in 17 points, and Dion Waiters came off the bench with 10 more.
The Warriors fixed one problem area from Game 3, and it didn’t matter.
“We competed tonight,” Kerr said.
“But we didn’t play very intelligently, way too many turnovers and careless passes. This is probably the longest team in the league that we’re facing, and we are continuing to try to throw passes over the top of their outstretched arms. It’s probably not a great idea.”
Kerr waved off any thought that Curry – who missed a dizzying amount shots point blank range while shooting 6-for-20 – is ailing. Curry, too, brushed that notion.
But something is very, very, very amiss. It may not be the Warriors. It may be that they’ve come across an opponent that is playing exceedingly well and has solutions for the many problems they present.
It’s one thing to be down 3-1. Nine teams over the years have come back from such a deficit. But being down 3-1 after losing by 28 and 24 points, that’s potent stuff.
“When you look at this team, we’ve got a lot of stuff that people haven’t seen before,” Green said. “I’m not sure how many times people have been down 3-1 before, but we’re going to give people something that they’ve never seen before.
“We’re down. We’re not out. And we’re going to take that approach.”
Game 5 will be at Oracle Arena on Thursday. It will be loud, and the Warriors will need all the support they can get.