Programming note: Warriors-Pelicans coverage tips off Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. with Warriors Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area (territorial restrictions apply)
OAKLAND – Warriors coach Mark Jackson was candid, saying this latest loss should “marinate'' in the spirit of players and staff. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, the engines of the team, seemed to take their coach literally.
A full 25 minutes after the Warriors were swept off their home floor by Portland, which closed out the game with a 23-11 surge, the starting guards remained slumped in chairs at their cubicles, still dressed in damp jerseys. They were silent and glum and had every reason to wonder where the team was headed.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Warriors blow lead, fall to Blazers 113-101]
The off-day Sunday – the Warriors practice Monday before flying to New Orleans to play the Pelicans on Tuesday – was widely considered welcome as an opportunity for introspection.
“Yeah, it is,'' center Andrew Bogut said. “We don't have very many (off days) this month or next month, so we'll take it to get some rest, get over whatever is bothering guys and hopefully bounce back on Tuesday.''
Said Jackson: “It's probably good right now for us because so many guys are dealing with (injuries). It's good as a team to get away sometimes, figure it out and begin to think about what we need to do. And night's like (Saturday) . . . it needs to marinate in your spirit.''
The Warriors have lost their last three games, two in the comfort of Oracle Arena. They've lost and regained Curry, their most valuable player. And they've lost, at least for now, Andre Iguodala, so essential for his tendency to instinctively fill any necessary need.
Moreover, the Warriors have deviated from their formula for victory.
Any chance they have of shattering the 50-win barrier lies not with offensive pyrotechnics but defensive intensity. That's what Jackson has been preaching, and it seemed to be taking hold while winning eight of their first 11 games.
Long synonymous with defensive apathy, the Warriors statistically were among NBA leaders in defense. They were gaining a reputation for suffocating opponents.
And now, holes are being punched in that new reputation.
The last three opponents have thrived when attacking power forward David Lee, who despite an avowed commitment to defense remains the weakest link. He has faced some terrific players – a lot of Zach Randolph, a bit of Pau Gasol, a lot of LaMarcus Aldridge – and they have won those battles.
That has led to Bogut sliding away from his man to aid Lee, if not swapping assignments altogether. Next thing you know, team defense is breaking down and the Warriors are saddled with another defeat.
Bogut said the Blazers used hustle and grit to make the Warriors “look silly out there, especially in the fourth quarter.'' Jackson pointed out Portland's 64 second-half points, along with their 48 off turnovers and second-chance opportunities.
It all added up to a third consecutive loss, all with a similar theme. Either the defense crumbles, leading to sloppy offense, or the offense gets sloppy, leading to a crumbling defense.
It is, injuries aside, an area of deep concern. What's not known is whether this is a dip in mental focus, or a crack in the team's physical structure or the beginning of a problem – low-post defense – that can't be solved without a move by general manager Bob Myers.
“We're going to be fine,'' said Jackson, ever the believer. “But it's not just going to happen.
“We have to get back to who we truly are, and it starts on the defensive end. It starts with executing offensively and it starts with playing with great energy and effort for 48 minutes – and we will do it.''
Maybe they will. Maybe the solution will be found during the day off or the road trip and the bonding that comes with five days together. The Warriors may not be as good as they were in winning eight of their first 11, but they surely are not as bad as they were in losing the last three.
The answers are out there, and Jackson insists they will be found. Curry and Thompson and their teammates are, by all appearances, eager to search.