OAKLAND -- The Warriors on Friday revisited the maddening nights of yore, those dreadful evenings on which they mysteriously failed to appear and after which they couldn't explain where they had gone.
They took a get-well gift from the schedule-maker -- the struggling Cavaliers, in the comfortable confines of Oracle Arena -- and turned it into a trip down Here We Go Again Street, with the ghosts of old raging once again.
The Warriors' 103-94 loss to Cleveland was about inexcusable as it gets for an NBA team that had been marching through March as they intended to play through May. The Warriors (41-26) started fast and, then, simply faded away.
Gone was the five-game win streak at Oracle. Gone was the Warriors' six-game win streak against Cleveland. Gone was the defensive focus and overall sense of urgency exhibited since the All-Star break, characteristics which were so evident while winning 10 of 13 games.
Gone is power forward David Lee's stated goal of sweeping every home game over the final two months.
Gone, too, was the feeling that the Warriors had gotten over their tendency to lose to inferior opponents.
This one was so bad the Warriors immediately convened to reflect and, presumably, regroup.
Coach Mark Jackson "got some things off his chest" during an extended cooling-off period before his postgame news conference, according to point guard Stephen Curry. Several players spoke up in what became an impromptu team meeting.
"A lot of voices -- and you could tell people care," Curry said. "It's obviously a bad loss, but we're still in decent shape in the race.
"But we want more. We want to be better. We want to have a better showing than we did tonight. So the fact that a lot of guys talked and kind of voiced their commitment to what we're trying to do was good."
Once Jackson left the room, Curry took it upon himself to address the issue in one-on-one meetings with several others, including centers Andrew Bogut and Jermaine O'Neal, in hopes of quickly exterminating whatever bug had crawled inside the team's collective head.
"Just trying to be a leader, man," Curry said. "Just trying to make sure everybody is energized. You have a tendency, if you lose a game like this, for guys to drop their heads and let it linger on to the next game."
The Cavaliers (26-40) opened the game in a fog, as the Warriors raced out to a 20-4 lead that extended to 36-18 early in the second quarter. From then on, Cleveland snapped awake and the Warriors left the arena.
The Cavs owned the final 35 minutes, outscoring the Warriors 85-58. Cleveland has failed to break 85 for an entire game on 12 occasions this season. The Cavs scored an astounding 68 points in the second and third quarters -- while the Warriors scored only 39.
"They just outhustled us and outworked us for three quarters at home," Bogut said. "If we want to go where we talk about going and not be just a first-round playoff team but hopefully a team that can progress throughout the playoffs, we've got a long way to go."
And just a few days ago, having won 10 of 12 since the break, the Warriors looked to have solved the riddle within. Coach Mark Jackson had full first and second units. The defense was stiff and relentless. There was a consistent fire to their performances, unlike some of the puzzlers earlier this season.
It all came on this night. The Warriors once again devolved into a team capable of losing to any opponent.
Let the hysteria and anxiety, so prevalent as the Warriors wobbled through a 3-6 stretch in January, begin anew.
THE GOOD: Not much to see here. Curry played reasonably well, and so did Draymond Green off the bench.
THE BAD: The two-quarter defensive slumber is beneath any legitimate contender and should be beneath any playoff team -- especially at home in the weeks leading up to the postseason.
Harrison Barnes, starting for the absent Klay Thompson (attending his grandfather's funeral), did not distinguish himself, playing a game-high 41 minutes and finishing with 6 points, five rebounds, two assists and two turnovers and missing all four of his free throws.
THE TAKE: This was hideous. That Curry was moved to meet with selected teammates may be a good sign, but this team has given itself plenty of warnings about games such as this. This loss could haunt a Warriors team that previously had lived up to its post-break vow to play every game with playoff intensity.