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OAKLAND – The Warriors raced out to a 12-point lead on their home court, against a team 13 games below .500 and gave it all back.
Which explains why their latest frustrating flameout, an 89-84 loss to the lowly Knicks on Sunday night at Oracle Arena was, on the surface, among the three worst defeats of the season.
To go beneath the surface, however, is to discover this merely is one of seven or eight nights this season during which the Warriors' evident growing pains were on graphic display.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Warriors blow early lead, lose to Knicks]
Though the Warriors generally play sound defensive basketball, they simply have not yet developed the chops to consistently deliver smart, fluid offensive basketball. And, honestly, who in the NBA besides the magnificent San Antonio Spurs are not at least occasionally guilty of that?
Though coach Mark Jackson pinned the loss on second-quarter defense, which was plenty horrid, it was poor offense that killed the Warriors in this game. Stephen Curry was 10-of-21 from the field, but his teammates combined to go 18 for 58, which rounds off to 31 percent.
“It was an ugly game on the offensive end for us, put too much pressure on Steph,” said Klay Thompson, who missed 12 his 18 shots. “He came through like he always does, but that's on us to make it easier on him. Hit a few more shots, make a few more plays.”
So preoccupied was Curry with creating his own offense that he managed one assist in 41 minutes. His previous season low was four. He's averaging 8.5 per game.
But there was no one else to trust. The starting frontcourt – Andre Iguodala, Marreese Speights and Jermaine O'Neal – combined to miss 13 of 19 shots. The usually reliable Steve Blake was 0-for-4, and poor Harrison Barnes (2-for-7, 12 for 54 over last eight games) is playing as if blindfolded.
There was no flow, no rhythm. When the Warriors weren't moving the ball, which happened all too often, they were missing open shots. They were outscored in the paint, 34-24, because they shot 40 percent in the shadow of the rim.
“We got good looks,” Jackson acknowledged.
To go beneath the surface is to note that the Warriors were playing without starting center Andrew Bogut or starting power forward David Lee. Their absence was felt, especially during a second quarter in which the Knicks shot 64 percent and outscored the Warriors 34-12.
To go beneath the surface is to note that the Knicks may be outside the playoff race, but they have been rallying; they came to Oakland having won nine of their last 12.
To go beneath the surface is to hear Iguodala's frank assessment of why things go wrong at some of the oddest times for the Warriors.
“We've got to be more aware of the importance of a possession,” he said. “Because sometimes we have lineups in that have five guys that can really score, we can get away from ball movement, ball movement, good look. Even if you miss, it's a good look. You still have floor balance. You can get back in transition.
“Tonight, we kind of fell in love – for just a little short stretch – and we got into (isolation) and putting up quick shots. We were off balance getting back defensively. They hit some big shots, and then we're trying to make home-run plays to get right back into it, instead of just letting it come back to us.”
This one was, to be sure, a loss that could have been avoided despite the shorthanded roster. The defense, on the whole, was good enough. The offense, on the whole, was not.
THE GOOD: Curry's valiant effort to score enough to keep his team in the game; 32 was not enough.
Jermaine O'Neal battling for 12 rebounds in 29 minutes.
Draymond Green playing relentless defense on Carmelo Anthony (7 of 21) and Amar'e Stoudemire (5 of 14), causing two turnovers, blocking three shots and grabbing five rebounds.
THE BAD: The shooting, by pretty much everyone not named Curry.
The ball movement, by pretty much everyone not named Iguodala, who accounted for six of the team's 14 assists.
The second quarter, during which the Warriors came apart as Jackson watched from the sideline.
THE TAKE: How can a playoff-caliber team storm back to bury a good Memphis club, and then, two nights later, steer into a defeat against the Knicks? If the Warriors would play it according to the odds, losing to teams above them and beating those below them, their record would be, oddly, more impressive. But, no, they're all over the place, finding both extremes, like adolescent boys on Red Bull. If only the Warriors would grow up, their fans wouldn't have to cope with loving them and hating them at the same time.